Phoebe's Reviews > Bigger than a Bread Box

Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder
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Dec 03, 13

bookshelves: middle-grade, fantasy, magical-realism, intergalactic-academy-reviews, sci-fi
Read from January 07 to 08, 2012

Full review at The Intergalactic Academy.

Bigger than a Bread Box might seem to be of a stretch for an Intergalactic Academy review. After all, it’s apparently a fantasy title, not a science fictional one. In a way, this story–about a middle school girl who finds a magical, gift-granting bread box–might see a little typical, too. Like fluffy wish fulfillment, not a story with heft or bite.

But Rebecca Shapiro’s world is far from saccharine. Her dad drives a taxi–or he did, until he wrecked it. Her mom works nights. Rebecca herself is quiet and a little nerdy, but her universe is a fairly secure one. Until one day, when her mother stuffs Rebecca and her baby brother Lew into their car and drives off to her grandmother’s house in Atlanta, leaving Rebecca’s father behind.

Rebecca reacts with very honest adolescent rage at her mother for upsetting daily life. She hides out in her grandmother’s cluttered attic. It’s there that she finds the eponymous bread box, and unwittingly makes her first wish–for a book to read. The core premise here is a bit like the kid’s classic Half Magic. You’ve got kids, and wishes, and the magic only follows very specific rules (in Half Magic, only half of a wish was granted; here, any item wished for must fit in the bread box itself). But thematically, it’s very different from Edward Eager’s tale. Eager’s kids were wishing out of boredom. Soon, Rebecca, thrust into a new school ruled by a spoiled queen bee, is wishing out of desperation: for electronics, for pens and lip glosses to give out at school, and candy to trade at lunch, and fries from the diner back home. She’s essentially trying to plug up the holes in her life with magic. Unsuccessfully, of course. It’s that kind of book. Think Edward Eager meets Louise Fitzhugh.

Like Fitzhugh and her contemporaries, Snyder deals absolutely honestly with the Rebecca and her situation. She’s volatile, rebellious, forgetful, a little selfish, and absolutely sympathetic. She’s also bright. This is as much a novel about embracing your inner geek as it is about magic, and its in exploration of this theme–complete with discussions of the Law of Conservation of Mass and Epicurus–that Bigger than a Bread Box takes on a decidedly SFnal tone.

But the focus remains on Rebecca’s plight, as she attempts to undo the damage that her magic has done and make reparations for her mistakes. The end takes us to some very interesting, unexpected, and affecting places, and in a sense the novel’s conclusion is deliciously open-ended. It hits all the right notes, especially the most important one: honesty.
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Reading Progress

01/07/2012 page 59
25.0% "This is pretty great so far."
01/07/2012 page 133
55.0% "I heard you like some physics in your MG fantasy so I put some Epicurus in your bread box." 6 comments

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I thought Any Which Wall had a very Eager/Nesbit feel too it, as well.

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