As the blurb on the back of the paperback edition says, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is "a dazzling ode to the power of fantasy, and a heartbreaking meditation on how growing up is as much a choice as it is something that happens to us." I heartily recommend it.
I formerly knew Anne Ursu's writing through my husband. He used to follow her Twins baseball blog, "Batgirl." We both loved her Lego re-enactments of Twins games. Here's her old Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/TwinsBatgirl
I picked up a copy of her middle-grade novel, in the St. Paul/Minneapolis airport the other day. I was drawn to the premise: a re-telling of the Snow Queen fairy tale. Then I appreciated her tone. Her tone in this book doesn't fight with the fairy tale genre: it's not snarky or slangy like so much of kid lit these days. I also liked the idea of a story set in winter in Minnesota, a setting not much loved by writers or by normal humans. Having lived through 24 winters in St. Paul, much of it spent waiting for buses on sub-zero days, I was intrigued to find someone actually using the excruciating pain of a MN winter in a middle-grade novel. (North of Hope by Jon Hassler is my favorite adult novel to use Minnesota winter to good advantage.)
I fairly gobbled up this book. I will go back and read it again, more slowly. It is twenty-five chapters, in two parts. The first page hints of magic, but the action is very realistic at first. The magical elements seem to slip in silently between the pages, until in the second part most of the action is magical. It then returns to the realistic very convincingly.
Her heroine is an 11-year-old girl named Hazel, who has been adopted from the Indian sub-continent. Her parents are separated/divorced. So she has plenty of adversity to deal with, but she also has to move to a new school: an mean stepsister of a school. As we learn about what her one and only friend, Jack, has to deal with, we grow to love them both.
I found the second, magical half too elaborate. But it wasn't confusing, and it's so well written that I still loved it. I recommend this book wholeheartedly to anyone of any age who is interested in good middle-grade reads.
Now I need to read her "Cronus Chronicles."