|Courtesy Random House|
Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder
I’ve made it pretty clear on this blog how much I enjoy magical realism. But my affection for lovely, entertaining, suspenseful, and moving Bigger Than a Bread Box goes far beyond the presence of a wish-granting bread tin. What really made me love Laurel Snyder’s new book so much is its protagonist.
Twelve-year-old Rebecca is a eminently realistic tween girl — flawed and likable. She gets bored by Civil War documentaries, she gets frustrated by her little brother who she really loves very much, she shares laughs with her best friend by sneaking peeks at dirty greeting cards (just one of the wonderful little details in the book). Everything she does is believable. Which is why, reading about her from a parent’s perspective, I so often felt like I wanted to be there to comfort her through her angst — or warn her against the ill-thought, disaster-bound choices she was obviously making. Kids are so much more interesting to read about when they make mistakes.
In the story, Rebecca’s parents split up and she is forced to move with her mother into her grandma’s house. Adjusting to a new house, new school, new neighborhood, and new friends is just as difficult as you’d imagine. But it’s made a little easier (or at least more surprising) by Rebecca’s discovery of a magical old bread box. Whatever she wishes for appears from within its tin confines. She starts off by wishing for exactly the type of things you’d expect a kid to wish for: money, an iPod, macaroni and cheese. But when her newfound loot doesn’t immediately change her life for the better, she ups the stakes, wishing for more unexpected (and harder to explain) prizes. And of course, the one thing she wants most — a reunion for her parents — is not something that can appear in a bread box. And when she learns a dark and morally challenging secret about the bread box, the tension increases exponentially.
This is a tale of dangerous magic, the kind that looks incredibly promising and appealing, but which — if misused — can lead to ruin. Be-careful-what-you-wish-for predicaments start snowballing. And you, the reader, want so badly for things to work out for this girl, that you can’t help but be drawn in.
Best for: Lovers of magical realism; readers looking for tween drama with a unique twist; collectors of antique bread boxes