Bigger than a Breadbox: Book Review

October 4th, 2013 by

Bigger-than-a-Bread-BoxRecently, I reviewed The Great Unexpected and mentioned how much I love magic realism (stories that take place in our regular world, but with a surprise bit of magic thrown in).

Well, if you’re also into magic realism, then I have another book to recommend: Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder.

It’s about Rebecca, whose family is falling about. Her mother picks up Rebecca and her little brother and moves the three of them from Baltimore to Atlanta to live with their Gran, away from their dad. Rebecca’s mom says it’s just temporary while she figures things out, but it’s long enough that Rebecca has to start at a new school and doesn’t know when she’ll see her dad or her home again.

Of course, Rebecca is miserable. The only thing that makes life more bearable is a bread box that she finds in the attic. It’s no ordinary bread box; it grants wishes. As long as what you ask for fits inside the box, it delivers.

Now, this may sound like the start of a wondrous adventure, but wishes can be very tricky, and Rebecca’s problems have no easy fix. So this book is just as much about the magic as it is about Rebecca and how she deals with her tough situation.

As you can tell, this book is not quite as whimsical as The Great Unexpected, so it’s an interesting contrast when you think about them both being magic realism. Also, if you’ve read Penny Dreadful, which is another book by Laurel Snyder, you’ll find that Bigger than a Breadbox is way more serious than Penny Dreadful, even though Bigger than a Breadbox involves magic and Penny Dreadful does not.

I’d recommend Bigger than a Breadbox for fans of Summer of the Gypsy Moths and Liar & Spy.

If you’ve already read Bigger than a Breadbox or any of the books I’ve mentioned, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts. Or tell me what you’d wish for if you had a magic bread box like Rebecca’s!

— Karen

Karen thinks hotels should use magic bread boxes to help visitors get items they accidentally left at home, like phone chargers and toothbrushes.

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Penny Delightful

October 29th, 2010 by

Not too long ago, I posted a review of Any Which Wall by Laurel Snyder — an enjoyable book in the tradition of Edward Eager’s sweet magical adventure stories.

Well, today Laurel Snyder’s got a new book hitting the shelves, and I liked it even better than Any Which Wall! As Penny Dreadful starts, Penelope Grey is leading a perfectly dull life — she’s an only child who spends most of her time alone, because she’s tutored at home instead of going to school and her parents are loving but both pretty busy. To keep from dying of boredom, Penelope escapes into books, and it’s not long before one of those books gives her the idea to wish for “an everything change” — a total turnaround to spice up her taste-free life. The amazing thing is: it actually happens!

I have to warn you, Penny Dreadful gets off to a bit of a slow start. I knew from the description on the book cover that Penelope and her parents would be moving to a small town where Penelope would transform herself into Penny and get a brand new start. So I was kind of impatient for that part of the story — that’s the sort of thing that happens in my favorite kind of books (like Because of Winn-Dixie, Miracles on Maple Hill, and The Four-Story Mistake). Then again, I could probably win the Guinness Record for “World’s Most Impatient Person,” so maybe I’m not the right person to judge…

Also, now that I think about it, I sort of need to learn the same lesson as Penny. You see, until her family’s big move, Penny hasn’t really had many exciting experiences herself; she’s just read about what other people experience in books. As a result, she kind of expects things to turn out as neat and tidy as in a story — except that life isn’t like that! Real life is messy and unexpected, and a lot of times things get harder before they get better, and problems don’t always get solved through the miracles that you want. But then again, sometimes the surprises are better than anything you even thought to wish for. And it’s that unpredictable nature of life that makes it so interesting! That’s what Penny learns in Penny Dreadful, and I guess I could also apply that lesson to my experience reading the book: I expected one thing and got another, something much more complicated than what I originally wanted… and I loved it!

Btw, I don’t want you to think Penny Dreadful is a complicated book that’s all about Lessons and Deep Thoughts (yawn). The story is really about Penny’s adventures, and there’s plenty of fun action — including  a treasure hunt in a cave, a feast at the local diner, and a bunch of wacky new friends. So if you enjoy books like The Penderwicks and Gone-Away Lake, you should definitely pick this one up! I admit, if I could follow Penny to her new town, I totally would…

And here’s something REALLY exciting: the author, Laurel Snyder, is offering what she calls the Penny Dreadful Book Club! She put together a list of books that she (and Penny) really like, and she’ll Skype in to talk with any group of three or more kids who want to read and then discuss at least three of the books on the list! (I guess 3 really is a magical number in this case.) Check out all the details and get your parent or teacher involved if you want to meet the author!

— Karen

Karen’s always been a city girl, but she did go to college in a small town where the main street was about five blocks long. But guess what… it still had a Starbucks!

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Review copy of the book was provided by the author.

Any Which Wall — Good Any Old Time

August 15th, 2010 by

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a HUGE fan of Edward Eager, who wrote a bunch of sweet, playful books about kids who discover temporary access points to magical adventures in their everyday world. His books include Half Magic, Magic by the Lake, Magic Or Not?, and The Time Garden (which was my pick for our time travel theme). There are seven books in all, and I’ve read each one multiple times over the years. It’s always been one of my great disappointments that Edward Eager never wrote more.

But thanks to Laurel Snyder, I now have one more chance to feel the same delight that Eager’s books always brought me. Her book, Any Which Wall, is a wonderful tribute to Eager, who is also one of her favorite authors.

The story is about four kids who come across a mysterious wall in a field near their neighborhood. They quickly realize that the wall grants wishes, and so the adventures begin — with Henry, Emma, Roy, and Susan zipping through time and space to the destinations of their dreams.

We included Any Which Wall in our beach reads booklist, and it really is perfect for sunshiney summer reading. If you’re looking for deep magical mythology or dramatic and dangerous exploits, then this is not the book for you. But who needs all that stuff all the time? Not me!

A couple weeks ago, I took the book with me on an hour-long subway ride to go bike riding on a little island by NYC. Reading Any Which Wall on the way there was amazing, because it set just the right tone for my day of fun in the sun, and it also made the time go by super quickly. So thank you, Laurel Snyder! I guess you could say that the kids in Any Which Wall found magic through a wall, and I found magic through a book!

Have any of you guys read Any Which Wall or any of Edward Eager’s books? Leave a comment and let me know, or send in a review of your own!

— Karen

Karen hasn’t come across any magical walls yet, but she often wishes for a magical subway train to take her away on an adventure — particularly on Monday mornings when she’s on her way to the office…


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