Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder

Ever heard of a genie in a bread box? Me neither. There's no genie in this story but there is a magical bread box. It grants wishes. Sort of. It grants only certain kinds of wishes. Rebecca, who is 12-years-old, has to figure out what wishes are acceptable. And while this story has a magic bread box, it really is not a fantasy story. It is realistic with a magical element that only Rebecca knows about. Lately, I've been grabbing books that seem to be a grab bag of genres. The Apothecary starts as historical and is quite realistic before turning on the fantasy and mystery elements. Falling In is a fantasy that seems very realistic. Breadcrumbs starts out realistic and then turns into a fairy tale. But... none of these plots are like this book. Summer of May is probably the closest except May is a lot more angry at her mom than Rebecca.

All is not well between Rebecca's parents. Dad is sleeping on the couch because her mom is mad at him for losing his job. They don't talk much any more. When Rebecca's dad doesn't recognize her mom's birthday, she packs up Rebecca and her two year old brother, Lew, and drives from Baltimore, Maryland to Atlanta, Georgia to stay with her mother, Rebecca's grandmother. Her mom is in such a rush to leave that Rebecca doesn't get to say "Goodbye" to her best friend. Or anyone at school. She hardly gets to say "Goodbye" to her dad. Her mom drives off with the car door open in the middle of her and her dad's goodbyes. Rebecca originally thinks it is a vacation but when they get there her mom tells her that Rebecca is going to go to school there. Naturally, Rebecca is furious. Her mom did not explain that she and Rebecca's dad were separating. When Rebecca finds a bread box that grants wishes, she uses it selfishly and unselfishly. When the wishes start to backfire, she tries to fix them and makes even a bigger mess than initially. 

Rebecca is a likable character who tries to fit in as the new girl at school. The author captures the cliques that are going on at school and how Rebecca knows what she needs to do to be "in." Rebecca also recognizes the fickleness of being "in" and "out" of the group based on the leader of the clique either liking or not liking someone. She knows that the leader, Hannah, is mean but follows along for the security of belonging to a group. 

Rebecca misses her dad so much that she spends time babysitting her brother, Lew, who also misses his dad. Rebecca knows Lew is too young to express those feelings but when he cries because she said the word, "daddy," she knows that she isn't the only one suffering from her parents separation. Lew is adorable. I love how the author captures a two-year-old's language with words like "nuffing and Shooshee and otay." It reminded me of my daughter calling convertibles "bloken" cars.

The internal changes going on with Rebecca and her mother are the strength of this story and push the plot along at a good pace. I was able to figure out the plot fairly easily in spots and then I didn't see some of the twists coming at all at the end. I like how the author doesn't paint Hannah as a one-dimensional bully and the ending was creative with the addled Adda. There is a lot going on in this story with themes of bullies, stealing, separation, siblings, friendships, mother-daughter relationships, and cliques. 
If you like stories that are more character-driven than plot-driven and have an emotional punch to them then you can't go wrong with this book. You may not find a genie in your bread box, but you will find magic in this well-told story.

Reading level 5.7
4 out of 5 Smileys

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