I love my friends, and when I think of the friends I have, I realize what a fortunate person I am.
First: A few years ago, I got to chatting with a brilliant, funny author at the annual KidLitCon - Laurel Snyder. It turned out that in addition to sharing certain opinions, vices, and an inappropriate sense of humor, we share weird geographic coincidences: she grew up a couple blocks from where I live now, and in high school she moved to the neighborhood where I grew up. Her friends were the younger siblings of my friends. When she lived in freakin' Iowa, her downstairs neighbor was a woman I've been friends with since birth. We might actually be the same person.
So I can't review her book.
Next: Also a few years ago, we got a new librarian at work. Yes I know that's a weird construction, but that's how we say it. We got a new librarian. She had the same name as me! Then we found out that we both have a kid the same age, a kid who loved to read and went to a Baltimore City charter school; and we also discovered that we both read a lot of teen fiction, and have almost the same taste! In books, accessories, food, you name it. We might actually be the same person. On Pink Me, I call her Eerily Similar Paula, and she's helped me out before.
Today, she and her Eerily Similar Kid, Thespian Girl, have contributed a mother-daughter review of Laurel's new book, Bigger than a Bread Box.
ESP: How did you get your hands on an advance copy of Bigger Than a Bread Box, Thespian Girl?
Okay, so me and Daddy were walking around at the ALA conference, and the lady at Random House said “Oh honey, I have a few books that you might like!” and I picked one up and started reading the back of it. Meanwhile, Daddy poked me in the ribcage and said “You have to get this book. Look at the dedication. It’s for Baltimore.” I said okay and I took it even though I didn’t really like the cover. I thought it might be a murder mystery or something about wizards.
ESP: What made you read it anyway?
Well, it was on my shelf and you told me I needed to read the next day and not watch any “stupid TV shows”. I read the first page and I was like “huh.” Then I read the next page, and the next page and the next page….”
ESP: I remember you read a part out loud to me. You said “this author really is from Baltimore. I can tell because of the detail when she describes Rebecca’s row house.”
There weren’t doors or walls between the downstairs rooms of our row house. The flooring just changed colors every ten feet or so. You knew you were out of the kitchen/dining room when the fake brick linoleum stopped and the pale blue carpet started. Then you were out of the living room and into the front room when the blue carpet changed to brown. That was like a lot of row houses were in Baltimore, like tunnels.
ESP: Kind of like our house?
ESP: So that made you keep reading? What’s it really about?
Yes. And the book got better and better as it went on. I read it mostly in one day while you were at work. It’s about a twelve year-old girl named Rebecca. She lives in Baltimore with her mom and dad and her toddler brother Lew. Her mom and dad have been arguing a lot, and then her mom decides it’s time to “take a break.” She drives Rebecca and Lew all the way to Atlanta, Georgia to stay with their grandmother. She doesn’t bother to tell Rebecca that they’ll be staying for a long time and that she’ll have to go to school there too. During the first night her and her mom get into an argument. Rebecca misses her dad. She gets mad and runs upstairs to the attic, where she discovers a collection of bread boxes. She only knows that’s what they are because they say “bread” on them. While she’s poking around up there, she says she wishes she had a book. She starts opening the bread boxes. They’re all empty except for the last one, which, coincidentally, has an Agatha Christie book in it. She brings the box down to her room.
ESP: Does she know right away that it’s magic?
No. She figures it out that night when she’s feeling homesick. She’s crying about all the things she misses about Baltimore. She says “I wish there were gulls” into her pillow, and then she hears a skreeeee noise coming from the breadbox. There are two seagulls inside!
ESP: So what does she wish for next? Is it a unicorn?
No, and I don’t want to ruin the story. She can only get things that are real. And that fit inside the bread box.
ESP: So it’s a book about a magic bread box? Is that how you would describe it?
Not just about a magic bread box. It’s about school drama, family, and how unfair it is when adults make decisions for you that you don’t like.
ESP: How did the book make you feel when you were reading it?
I was excited and on edge! I couldn’t guess what was going to happen at all. She (Laurel Snyder) did a great job with the entire story. There wasn’t too much of anything or too little of anything. It was a perfect book. The ending is a good set up for a sequel, hint-hint!
Paula is a good friend and I want to thank her and Thespian Girl thoroughly for this thoughtful take on a terrific book. My only regret is that when either of them starts writing books herself, I won't be able to review them. Maybe I'll get Laurel to do it!
Here's some more help, from 12-year-old kid named Lily, who made this beautiful book trailer for Bigger than a Bread Box:
I swear, tween girls should be running this country. They are so smart!