The very word breadcrumbs conjures up images of a boy and a girl lost in a dark and mysterious landscape, trying to get back home to safety. In her luminous new novel, Breadcrumbs, Anne Ursu draws on the archetypal worlds of fairy tales such as Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” yet also manages to create an original world of magic all her own.

The story opens with an evocative depiction of a snowstorm, and a premonition that the mundane world of school and winter sledding that Minnesota fifth graders Jack and Hazel think they know is not at all what it seems.

Best friends since the age of six, Jack and Hazel are in desperate need of some magic. Jack’s mom is suffering from depression. Hazel’s father has left, her mother is struggling financially and Hazel has had to leave her familiar private school and go to the public school. Hazel has gone from being called creative and imaginative to being a lonely girl who “needs to follow school rules.”

But there is one rule that Hazel believes in strongly: that best friends don’t suddenly desert you overnight of their own free will. Never. And so, when some horrible magic takes Jack away, Hazel must gather all her courage and her belief in friendship to set out after him into the cold, snowy woods.

Ursu has created a beautiful and compelling fairy tale that will appeal to young readers raised on magic. If you know any readers pining for something new now that the last Harry Potter film is out, have them follow the trail of magic in this marvelous book.

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