July 23, 2011

Book Talk: Bigger Than a Bread Box

Everybody's parents fight, right? It's normal. They disagree, say things they don't mean, forget birthdays and anniversaries- but they forgive each other... right? Well, not always. Sometimes parents don't make up. Sometimes a mom or a dad can only take so much before they just need a break. A break- from being married, a break from the person they married. Does this mean they don't love each other? I guess that's what the break will tell them. But what about the kids? When a mom and dad decide to take a break- what happens to them? Do they get a choice in the matter? Probably not... parents usually make those kinds of decisions without consulting the kids. 
But think about it. How would you feel if one morning you woke up and your mom had packed the car and told you that you were going to Atlanta- right this minute. No chance to say goodbye to your friends, or pack your favorite things or turn in your homework. You had to get in the car and leave everything... including your dad. And what if your dad hugged you goodbye and your mom drove away? What if you looked back to see your dad chasing the car and yelling at your mom to come back? How would you feel?
Bigger Than a Bread Box, by Laurel Snyder will show you how you might feel. In this book, Rebecca is the girl who wakes up to find that her mom is leaving her dad in Baltimore and driving to Atlanta to stay with her mother (Gran). Rebecca knew that her parents had been having trouble- but enough trouble to leave her dad behind? And what is worse? Rebecca had no idea. Rebecca had no choice.
After a silent drive from Baltimore to Atlanta, Rebecca, her brother Lew and her mom arrive at Gran's house. When Gran tells her about the new middle school she will be starting on Friday, Rebecca realizes that they aren't there for a few days. She hides in the attic so she doesn't have to talk to her mother. While in hiding, she looks through some of Gran's things and finds a collection of bread boxes. (Bread boxes were used back in the day to keep bread fresh- before it was made with all the preservatives we use today... it would go stale so fast. It also kept out the bugs and the mice)  
Rebecca is drawn to a beautiful red bread box that seems to stand out from all of the others. As she sits in the attic, bored and covered with dust, she wishes, out loud, that she had a book to read. Instantly, she hears a thud come from the red bread box. She opens it up and finds an old ratty copy of a Nancy Drew book. Rebecca takes the book and the bread box back to her room. She wishes that she had 20 bucks- again, the box makes a sound, Rebecca opens it and there is a 20 dollar bill. Rebecca realizes that she can wish for anything that will fit into the bread box and it will appear... it's magic. 
Rebecca decides to use this box to her advantage- she wishes for things that will help her adjust to her new situation. (new jeans for her, lip gloss for the new girls at school, gravy fries to ease her homesickness). Eventually, her wishes start to backfire on her. Everything she wishes for ends up causing her trouble. But when she wishes for something to get her parents back together, the box sits empty. 
What good are wishes when you can't get what you really want? What does Rebecca really want? She wants to go home to Baltimore. She wants her parents to fall in love again. She wants her mom to notice her. She wants the kids at school to think she's cool. She wants to fit it. She wants to make her own decisions. She wants people to listen to her. But can a bread box, even a magical one grant these wishes? May be what she really wants is bigger than a bread box. May be you can't wish for love and have it magically appear... may be love is something that has to appear on its own.
In Bigger Than a Breadbox, Rebecca has a memory of her parents when they were their happiest- they would listen to this song and dance around the living room.
I think this is what Rebecca really wanted to find in that box.
This book will be very popular with kids in grades 4-8. From my experience, it will be the girls who devour this book. Most (or some) boys just can't read a book with all of these emotions and feelings and self discovery. If the bread box turned into a robot that destroyed the city of Atlanta with its laser eyeballs, they would love it.  If they give it a chance, they will love this story too. Even though there is a magic breadbox in this book, it still reads like realistic fiction. The times when Rebecca is at her worst- when she is completely devastated by her parent's separation, your heart breaks. You feel every single raw emotion that this little girl feels and you are helpless- you have to watch her go through this storm alone. As a parent, my heart aches to think about how kids take in all of the things that adults do to them, thinking it is for them. They may be kids, but they are little humans who have feelings, desires and opinions. We, adults, are quick to dismiss them because they are shorter than us. I am guilty of this as well. but will be making a concerted effort to change. 
Don't be too quick to play biblio-therapist with this book. It would be easy to say "Oh, Kelly's parents got divorced, she needs to read this book." or "Leah's parent's aren't divorced, she wouldn't relate." But this book has greater appeal than "just the divorced kids". All kids (girls AND boys) want to be loved, all kids want their parents to love each other... all kids have a list of things that they would wish for if they had an unlimited supply of wishes... so let them wish, let them be loved, let them be heard and let them read. 

This is how I picture Rebecca's home in Baltimore

This is how I picture Gran's house in Atlanta


  1. Thank you for sharing this! Once I am done catching up on my blog reading, I am going to have a massive to read list, lol!

  2. Great review! I really loved this book and loved the premise of the wishes teaching Rebecca something about herself. I wish I could get boys to read it, but agree with your assessment that it will be primarily girls unless a teacher reads it aloud. (In which case i think boys will like it too.)

  3. Wonderful review. It sounds like my kind of book. Kind of vaguely reminded me as well of Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Headless Cupid - with the protagonist dealing with her parents' separation and her mom (or was it her dad) having a new family - the feeling of displacement, alienation and all that kind of reminds me of this story.

    Will look out for this one.

  4. My favorite line in this review: "If the bread box turned into a robot that destroyed the city of Atlanta with its laser eyeballs, they would love it." Indeed! As a mom of 3 boys I say that is a FACT. :) But me, I love a good feely book (I might have mentioned this to you before, Kelly) so sounds like one to check out. Thanks.