We meet Rebecca just as her mom and dad's relationship is falling apart, and as that happens, we see her struggle with that very difficult in-between place of feeling grown-up, yet still very dependent on the people around her. She is very much 12; one minute she feels old enough to take off on her own, and another she feels very slighted and hurt because no one has come to tuck her in. Combine this internal confusion with all of the confusion going on around her, and that leaves you with - quite understandably - a very confused young girl.
Her determination to fix what is wrong in her life is exacerbated by discovering a magic breadbox in her grandmother's attic. While wishing for something that reminded her of Baltimore, she discovers that the breadbox will grant any wish, as long as what Rebecca wished for can fit inside. She thinks that this will solve all of her problems, but adding magic into the jumbled mix that her life has become makes things happen that Rebecca never would have dreamed.
I love the very subtle use of magic in this otherwise heartbreakingly realistic book. It's a seamless blend that doesn't feel forced, and is crucial to the story. The story takes place in both Baltimore and Atlanta, and you get a sense that you are getting a taste of the best and the most weird of each city. It made me want to visit both places. And it made me grateful that I get the opportunity to work with kids at this very odd stage of their lives, where they sometimes feel adult and invincible, but also sometimes, still just want to be tucked in at night. Bigger Than a Breadbox is, without a doubt, one of the best Middle Grade titles of the year.
Who Should Read It?
This book is ideal for any middle grader. The uncertainty that Rebecca deals with internally will be all too familiar to them, and will go a long way in helping them understand that it's not just them. It will also be wonderful for a child dealing with upheaval at home, especially the separation or divorce of their parents. This book seems to hit, spot on, the vast mix of emotions and depth of pain and desperation that can come from watching everything you've known unravel around you.
To show just how much of a chord it is striking, here is a fantastic book trailer for Bigger Than a Breadbox, created by a 12-year-old fan:
Bigger Than a Breadbox will be available for purchase on September 27, 2011.