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Friday, January 11, 2013

Bigger Than A Breadbox, written by Laurel Snyder. Yearling Fantasy, Random House. 20121. $7.99 ages 10 and up

"I locked myself in the bathroom. I got dressed very, very carefully. I pulled on my skinny jeans and slipped into new red ballet shoes. I picked out my favorite black shirt. Then I did my hair in the swoopy new way. When everything looked perfect, I went to my bedroom and put the jacket on. It all felt just right. I picked up my backpack, ran down the hallway..."

This is a book that starts with a bang...and just keeps going. To Rebecca, things at home seem fine until:

"That was how we left him, through an open car door. My mom stepped on the gas. The car began to move. My dad jumped back to the sidewalk, off balance. When I turned around, I could see him standing in the street. He was calling after us. My dad was yelling in the street for everyone to hear; then he was running behind the car. He was calling, "Come back! Come back!"

Heartbreaking? Yes! For Rebecca, for her little brother Lew and for her parents. Her mom had packed the car, loaded the kids in and was on her way to Atlanta, and Gran. If you have children in your class, or your home, who have come face to face with divorce and survived, this is very real. Gran is happy to have them, and the family begins to settle to some kind of new normal.

While searching the attic, Rebecca finds a magic breadbox that grants her every wish. In doing so, it helps her adjust to being the new kid in a middle school where the year has already begun and allegiances are established. Gran is an ally and a thoughtful listener for Rebecca who is struggling with this new reality. The breadbox grants every, birthday presents, gift cards, iPod, even an expensive one-of-a-kind leather jacket. What it can't do is bring her parents back together.

It takes some time; but, Rebecca is soon to discover the price to be paid for all the magic. Her wishes come true by stealing from others. She soon finds herself in a bunch of trouble. Will she fashion a way to atone for her mistakes? When she realizes that the breadbox's magic is not the antidote for her pain and anger, her life begins to change.

Winning characters, a loving family despite their differences, an extremely strong and vivid first person narrative make Laurel Snyder's story memorable, and a thoughtful and poignant classroom read. It made my heart ache for each of those involved...and doesn't that make for the best shared stories?           

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