School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—Rebecca's parents have been struggling to get along. Suddenly, Mom packs up 12-year-old Rebecca and toddler Lew to drive to Atlanta to stay with her mother. Rebecca is furious and misses her friends, school, and, most of all, her dad. In the attic, she discovers a bread box, at the same time missing the gulls in Baltimore and wishing there were some in Atlanta. She looks inside to find that two birds have appeared. She soon figures out that wishes that can fit in the box magically materialize, but those that can't, such as going home or getting her parents back together, are not granted. As often happens with wishes, things go awry; all of the items she has wished for-money, an iPod, a birthday gift for her mother-belonged to someone else and she is accused of stealing. Snyder weaves in her magic without letting it take over and become the focus. Rebecca's choices are not always understandable, but her heartache is. The slightly over-the-top resolution will be both scary and satisfying to readers. This is solid fiction for the elementary crowd. It doesn't rely on one-dimensional bad guys and doesn't let readers think that the good guys are flawless.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library, CO
"Everything felt wrong, lopsided. I knew from the weird fuzzy humming inside my head," thinks 12-year-old Rebecca Shapiro as her family ruptures before her eyes. Rebecca's father has been out of work, and her mother is fed up; after a big fight with her husband, she packs up the children and drives from Baltimore to Atlanta to visit Rebecca and Lew's grandmother. When Rebecca discovers this isn't just a quick visit (her mother has a temp job for herself lined up and a new school picked out for Rebecca), she's furious. One day while exploring her grandmother's attic, Rebecca finds a magic breadbox that will grant any wish that fits inside it: a cookie, money, pens, lip-gloss, candy, or a diamond. But Rebecca comes to understand that the box won't solve her problems (conversely, it creates some enormous ones); she has to do that on her own. Introspective and rich with delicate imagery, this coming-of-age tale shares themes with Snyder's Penny Dreadful (2010). The insightful, memorable, and complex characters that Snyder creates result in a story with the same qualities. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Krisan Murphy
Twelve-year-old Rebecca has the bad fortune of witnessing the break-up and separation of her parents. As if that's not bad enough, she also receives the ironic curse of having her wishes come true. In this realistic fantasy Rebecca discovers a bread box in her grandmother's attic which produces objects of her wishinga book, one thousand dollars in crumbled bills, candy, french fries, a silver spoon, and much more. When it finally occurs to Rebecca where the items have come from, she is in deep trouble. She digs a deeper hole trying to escape all the wished for items that are no bigger than a bread box. Aside from the magical box, this story captures realistic emotions of children, estranged parents, and grandparents detailing with a shattered home. The author also gives insight into the social dynamics of a middle school girl who is a newcomer to a school and the stress of finding her identity. This book may be helpful to readers experiencing the traumas of a broken home. Reviewer: Krisan Murphy
Read an Excerpt
I was in the dining room part of the kitchen doing my math homework at the table when the lights suddenly blinked off. Everything else in the house stopped working too. The numbers on the microwave’s clock disappeared. The fridge stopped making the wheezy noise it usually makes.
Then my mom, over in the living room, started picking on my dad for no good reason. As far as I could tell, he was just sitting on the couch, drinking a beer and watching TV, like he usually does after dinner. “Winding down,” he calls it. Ever since he wrecked his cab, he’s been winding down a lot. But the accident wasn’t his fault, and he’ll get another job soon. He always does. He’s just taking a break for a little while.
Anyway, I couldn’t see either of them because of the lights being off, but I could hear everything they said. There weren’t doors or walls between the downstairs rooms in our row house. The flooring just changed color every ten feet or so. You knew you were out of the kitchen/dining room and into the living 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 how a lot of row houses were in Baltimore, like tunnels.
So, really, we were all in one long, dark room together when Mom snapped, “Jim! You didn’t pay the power bill again?”
Dad didn’t answer her. He does that sometimes, tunes out, though I can never tell if he’s daydreaming or just pretending not to hear her. She kept going on about how she was “sick of it all.” She said she was too tired to even talk about it anymore, but then she kept talking. She called him selfish. She said he was a child. She went on and on, and none of it made much sense to me. It was just a big list of angry. Her voice got madder and louder until at last she was yelling when she said, “If you can’t handle the bills right now, could you maybe at least handle the dishes?”
Even though it was pitch-black in the room, I squeezed my eyes shut. I laid my head on the table, on my math book.
She stopped yelling and got quiet. Everything was dark and quiet when she said, in a smaller voice, “I’m sorry, Jim,” and “I hate this,” and “I love you, but . . .”
I squeezed my eyes tighter.
Then Mom started crying.
I just sat in the dark dining area with my head on my book. Partly because I absolutely didn’t want to go in there, but also partly because it was so dark I was afraid I’d trip over a chair or something. I just sat, hunched over. I smelled the musty paper of the math book and listened to Mom cry. It was hardly the first time they’d had a fight in front of me, but things didn’t usually get so bad.
After a while, Mom stopped and kind of whispered, “You know, Jim? I could do this . . . just as easily . . . without you.”
There was a pause after that; then Dad said, really, really softly, “Oh . . . could you?”
Mom sucked in a quick breath, like it hurt her, and she said, “Yeah. Easier even.”
Dad sat there, I guess, doing nothing. That was what it sounded like. It sounded like nothing.
Mom took another breath, a slow one this time, and asked, “Did you hear what I said? Did you hear me? Aren’t you going to say anything?”
I opened my eyes. She sounded calm, too calm. Something was really wrong.
Dad, not yelling or crying--because he pretty much never yells or cries--said, “What do you want me to say, Annie?” He sounded grim. He was talking through his teeth. I heard him take a big wet sip of his beer before he said, “You think I like the way things are any better than you?”
She didn’t answer him.
I couldn’t stand it after that. It was totally dark and quiet. I’d never been anywhere so still as that room. It was like I was waiting in the back of a closet, sitting on lumpy shoes. Only there was no door to open, nothing I could do to get out. I’d never listened so carefully to something I didn’t want to hear.
Then two things happened at the same exact time.
The lights came back on.
And upstairs, in his room, my little brother, Lew, started crying.
“Mama?” he was saying. “Daddy?”
I looked over into the living room. With the lights back on, I could see everything clearly again. My parents were just frozen there, like statues. Lew kept crying.
I stood up. I made myself walk. I kept my eyes on my feet. Even so, out of the corner of my eye I could see Mom leaning against the side of the recliner, still wearing her blue scrubs from work, her arms limp and her face all wet. Dad was sitting on the couch, staring past her at the blank TV. He looked sad too, but also, weirdly, he looked a little like he wanted to smile. I guess maybe that was because now everyone knew he had paid the power bill.
I didn’t say anything to either of them, and they didn’t say anything to me. I walked as fast as I could through the living room and headed up the stairs to Lew. Poor kid. He wasn’t even three years old yet. He had no idea what was going on.
When I got upstairs, Lew was in his crib, holding the bars really tight. His face was red, but when he saw me, he stopped crying. I lifted him out. He can climb out himself, but he doesn’t usually do it. We sat on the floor, and I held him and rocked while he sucked his thumb. He smelled like dirty hair and peanut butter. I thought about singing a song but didn’t. Eventually, he fell back asleep in my lap, and I laid him on the floor, because I knew I’d wake him up putting him into his crib. My arms aren’t long enough, so I always have to drop him the last foot, deadweight, and he wakes up. Instead I just covered him with a blanket.
That was near the end of October.
From the Hardcover edition.