I’m a little late to the blogging party on this one, but it was worth the wait.
Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder. Our heroine Rebecca is about 14, I think, when her parents’ marriage starts really falling apart. Her father, an unemployed taxi driver and former teacher, has been absorbed in apathy, spending his time on the couch. Her mother, a hospital nurse, loses it in the middle of the week. She packs Rebecca and her little brother Lew, aged two, into the car and drives them from Baltimore to Atlanta to Gran’s house. She tells Rebecca that it’s just a temporary measure until she and Rebecca’s father get things sorted out, but she’s found a job and enrolled Rebecca in school. Rebecca, quite naturally, loves both her parents and would really like them to get back together again. She’s deeply betrayed both by the split and by her mother’s deciding to start a new life for all of them without so much as telling anyone ahead of time. She misses Baltimore and its seagulls as much as she misses her father and her best friend. While not speaking to her mother, she makes her way up to her grandmother’s attic, and it’s there that she finds, among a collection of old breadboxes, one that grants wishes. It takes a little bit to figure this out, of course, and to figure out the rules: she must wish for a tangible object that will fit in the breadbox. First it gives her an old Agatha Christie novel when she wishes for a book, which turns out to be perfect for taking her mind off the situation. But when she starts school and super-popular Hannah is assigned to show her around, it is perfect for giving her the cash and small gifts that will help her become the popular girl she never was at her old school. What Rebecca doesn’t realize at first is that even magic isn’t free. It takes her a while to realize the full truth about the breadbox magic, and even longer to figure out how to make things right again.
All of the major characters in this book come across as fully developed people, including Gran, both of Rebecca’s parents, Rebecca herself, and even two-year-old Lew. I don’t often seek out Issue Books to read, but here, the magic and the Issue blended perfectly together. The story might be more about divorce than it is about magic, but the magic is essential to Rebecca’s journey, not just beautiful icing on a bitter cake. And even if the breadbox isn’t the magic cure for her parents that Rebecca wants it to be, the place she comes to at the end is still a better one than the beginning. The result is a story with depth and charm that I had a very hard time putting down.