ALPHAreader's Reviews > Bigger than a Bread Box

Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder
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Jan 19, 2012

it was amazing

One night during a black out Rebecca’s life changes forever. Her parents have been fighting ever since her dad crashed the taxi and began ‘job hunting’ (from the comfort of the couch). But until that black out, everything seemed to be staying pretty much the same, just with louder fights. But after that night Rebecca’s dad takes to sleeping on the couch. There are fewer angry words exchanged, and more silences. And then one day Rebecca returns home from school to find her mother and a pile of suitcases. They’re going ‘home’, mum says. Home means Atlanta and Gran’s house. And they’re not coming back until things feel right, whenever that may be. And dad’s not coming.

So Rebecca, her mum and two-year-old Lew get in the family car and drive to Atlanta. Rebecca cannot forgive her mum for just packing up and leaving, taking her and Lew away from Baltimore and dad, dancing to Bruce Springsteen in the living room and playing with Mary Kate at school.

So Rebecca takes to her Gran’s attic … and up there she finds a breadbox. But not any ordinary breadbox, a magic breadbox. Close the lid and make a wish for something, reopen and that something magically appears. A little bit of magic might go a long way to curing Rebecca’s hatred of her new school, new nickname and missing her dad. Maybe.

‘Bigger Than a Bread Box’ was the 2011 US middle-grade novel from Laurel Snyder.

I unabashedly loved this novel. I had no idea from that quirky title and even quirkier magic source that Snyder’s book would have so much depth and be so full of heart.

I’ll have to borrow Snyder’s own words – from the novel’s ‘acknowledgements’ page (I love reading those things!) – when she thanked her agents for persevering with her rather wacky story idea, which she pitched as;

a “middle-grade book about Bruce Springsteen songs and seagulls and divorce and a magical bread box.”

And that’s exactly what this book comes down to, well, superficially at least.

Rebecca is caught in the middle of her parent’s breaking-point. She knows that they’ve been fighting a lot since her dad crashed his taxi and lost his job. She knows that her mother, a nurse, is exhausted by her day job and the feeling of ungratefulness she gets at home as wife and mother. But Rebecca doesn’t understand why her parents can’t talk instead of yell, or why her mother feels the need to flee to Gran’s house for an unspecified period of time.

Snyder borrows heavily from her own childhood, remembering her parent’s divorce, to articulate this sad and awkward time through twelve-year-old Rebecca. She wants things to remain the same, but doesn’t know how to do that. And when a magical bread box appears, she thinks that all her wishes will be answered…

The bread box delivers an iPod, television, clothes, an old spoon, chocolates, bus tickets and seagulls (to remind her of Baltimore). What the bread box doesn’t give is a way to fix her parent’s marriage. Rebecca has to find that out on her own, through a series of misguided bread box wishes and a damning discovery of just where all this magic comes from.

Along the way Rebecca will learn the truth behind Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Heavy Heart’ lyrics (nowhere near as cheery as the beat);

Nobody said anything else for a bit, and I stared at the road, at the back of my silent father. I wondered what he was thinking. Mom switched on the radio.
Then, because sometimes crazy things happen, because the world is big and small and full of magic, or coincidence, the song came on. Out little car filled with that familiar voice, full of gravel and ache.

Rebecca will also discover that her little brother, Lew, is a wonderful companion, her gran is rather wise, and that ‘followers’ are not the same as ‘friends’. But Rebecca’s biggest lesson of all is simply that some problems are bigger than they first appear, and the answers to them won’t necessarily fit inside a bread box.

A wonderful, charming and gently complex coming-of-age novel.
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