A couple of the books that have found their way into our home and hearts this spring are Chicken Boy by Frances O’Roark Dowell and Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu.
I read Chicken Boy with my fourth grade reading club at my local neighborhood school. Tobin’s family loses their way after cancer takes their mom, and the story is about the roundabout way that they find it again. It all begins with Tobin’s making a friend named Henry, who introduces Tobin to chickens.
Tobin is telling the story and his descriptions and language made me love him all the more. He is quite funny. The events in Tobin’s life really resonated with my group of kiddos, and so they hung with this story even though the book was a bit longer than ones we normally read.
Tobin is in the seventh grade, but I think any preteen reader would enjoy this sweet story.
Breadcrumbs starts out like a modern day children’s novel about two fifth graders, Jack and Hazel, who have been friends since they were little, but strange events occur that twist the story into a magical adventure. Inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, along with nods to a host of other familiar tales, Ursu weaves a rich tale that surprises with each turn. It is both haunting and delightful.
My favorite lines from this book are the ones that are just a hint from another story, like this one when Hazel sees a wolf standing still in the woods,
Panic fused the circuits of her brain. Her breath stopped. She’d read once that if you ran into a bear in the woods you should avoid eye contact and you shouldn’t run away, but all she knew about wolves was that you should never tell them how to find your grandmother’s house.
I love that these references build on a young reader’s background of reading, making you feel like you’re in on an inside joke.
Both books would also make great summer read alouds too.