Today was, to be honest, not the best writing day. The words dripped out slower than Heinz 57, and landed on the page just as sloppily. The day was not a total loss, though, because I had a terrific reading experience. The responsible book? Bigger than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder — which, after travel across multiple states (and multiple mail systems) finally arrived at my doorstep.
Bigger than a Bread Box tells the story of 12-year-old Rebecca (not “Becky”) Shapiro, who is dealing with the fallout from her parents’ separation. Relocated from Baltimore to Atlanta by her mother — they’ve gone, along with her toddler brother, to stay with Rebecca’s gran — Rebecca is angry, resentful, and worst of all, lonely. Her situation becomes a bit less bleak, however, when she discovers a bread box in her grandmother’s attic. Rebecca quickly realizes that the bread box is no ordinary object; when wished upon, it can deliver whatever object Rebecca requests, so long as it will fit inside. Rebecca gains material comforts of all sorts, but soon she learns that the bread box can cause just as many problems as it solves.
The book may feature magical elements, but it is truly real. It is absolutely honest, at times painfully so, with a wonderful lead that you cannot help but feel for. Throughout, Snyder delivers such a strong sense of place and character (one often informing the other) that you feel like you know every space and person in the book within moments of being introduced. Every moment of the story rings true, building to an ending that is logical and satisfying, but without a clean bow to wrap it all up.
Those who read this blog with any regularity know that I’m a busy fellow, so don’t take it lightly when I say that I read this book in a single sitting. I had only intended to read the first few chapters when I sat down today — but Ms. Snyder had other plans for me, and I was helpless in the face of her wonderful writing.
I’m going to call it now: Bigger than a Bread Box deserves to be on the Newbery shortlist. It is insightful, tearfully moving, and a great addition to the pantheon of magical realist fiction. Buy this book, or you’re really missing out.
PS: To the students of Minges Brook Elementary and Washington Elementary — I can’t wait to meet you guys!