Friday, December 30, 2011

Bigger than a Bread Box, by Laurel Snyder (ages 9 - 12): a heartfelt story of a family coping with divorce

The holidays can add a stress to anyone's life, but particularly for families coping with divorce. Change is hard for anyone, but particularly for children. I was particularly struck by Laurel Snyder's newest book, Bigger than a Bread Box, by how change can wrench a child from all her certainties. This is a wonderful book for kids who love realistic fiction, with a hint of fantasy.
Bigger Than a Bread Box
by Laurel Snyder
NY: Random House, 2011
ages 9 - 12
available from your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
Rebecca's life was suddenly torn apart when her parents reached a breaking point. One moment, their life in Baltimore seemed pretty normal - a bit stressful since her dad crashed his taxicab - but still pretty normal. But the next moment, everything changed. Her mom packed up the car, told Rebecca and her little brother to get in, and told them that they were going to visit their grandmother in Atlanta. But Rebecca looked at her dad:
    "My dad. My dad. My dad was so strong. He never cried. 'I don't know . . .,' he whispered to me. Answering a question I hadn't answered.
    I felt frozen. Stuck to him, stuck with him in a bubble, in a hug so tight it was bruising my arms. We were going to leave him - my dad - and there was nothing I could do. It wasn't possible. It was too fast. I just hugged and hugged and hugged." (pp. 13-14)
Rebecca was angry and resentful when she got to her grandmother's in Atlanta. Unable to talk to her mom, she escaped up into her grandmother's attic. Amongst all her grandmother's things, she discovered a collection of bread boxes. One in particular drew her attention. And then Rebecca wished for a book to read up in the attic, and when she looked inside the bread box - there was a book.

We all wish for different things, whether it's for tangible things we covet or for our situations to change. As Rebecca wrestled with fitting into a new school, she used the bread box to satisfy her wishes - but it would only bring her things, things that would fit inside the bread box.

I especially liked the way Laurel Snyder layers character development, emotional dilemmas, and underlying questions into this heartfelt story. This is a book that will speak to kids, whether it's kids who have experienced divorce or changes that they don't have control over, or kids who connect to Rebecca's difficulties at school.
Download the Bigger Than a Bread Box study guide. It includes writing prompts and information about Penny Dreadful.

Read other reviews at:
  • 100 Scope Notes: "The first-person narration is refreshingly honest. Rebecca is brought to life with a clear voice that readers will buy into."
  • John Schumacher on 100 Scope Notes & Mr. Schu's Top 20 Children's Books of 2011: "I wish I could magically place Bigger Than a Bread Box inside the backpack of every fifth-grade girl who wishes her parents would get back together, or inside the locker of every reflective sixth-grade boy who wishes his life would return to the way it used to be."
  • Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac: "The problems of children facing divorce, the dark side of magic, the struggles of an engaging twelve-year-old not wanting to adapt to change—all these themes have been explored through superb storytelling."
  • New York Times: " Snyder captures the divided household’s terrible sense of limbo and the helpless anguish and self-­involved fury of a newly adolescent girl, allowing no ties to form until the post-bomb dust has settled to reveal whatever new landscape has been obscured by its cloud."
The review copy was kindly sent by Random House Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

1 comment:

  1. I really loved this book!! I think my 6th graders-even struggling readers-will like it, too. It was so easy to read but yet it was still deep, not shallow. :)