In this contemporary version of The Snow Queen, fifth-grader Hazel embarks on a memorable journey into the Minnesota woods to find her best friend Jack, who vanishes after a shard of glass pierces his eye.
Adopted from India as a baby, fantasy maven Hazel has always felt "she was from a different planet." Hazel tries "desperately not to disturb the universe" at Lovelace Elementary, where she doesn't fit in with anyone except Jack, the only person she knows with a real imagination. Together they've grown out of "Wonderland Arctic space-people tea parties" into "superhero baseball"—until the day Hazel pelts Jack with a snowball, glass enters his eye and he disappears with a mysterious woman resembling the Snow Queen. Uncertain if Jack's really changed or something fey's afoot, Hazel enters the woods to find "an entirely different place," populated by creatures from the pages of Hans Christian Andersen. As Hazel discovers she doesn't know the ground rules, the third-person narrator engages readers with asides and inter-textual references from the fairy-tale canon. And like a fairy-tale heroine, Hazel traverses the woods without a breadcrumb trail to save a boy who may not want to be saved in this multi-layered, artfully crafted, transforming testament to the power of friendship.More than just a good story, this will appeal to lovers of Cornelia Funke as well as Andersen. (Fantasy. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Ursu follows her Cronus Chronicles trilogy with this deeply felt, modern-day fantasy that borrows plot from Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen. Richly imaginative fifth-grader Hazel, adopted from India, has recently switched schools and is failing (badly) to fit in. Money is tight, her parents have divorced, and her best friend, Jack, suddenly rebuffs her. Hazel is devastated, but readers learn the cause of Jack's alienation is a shard of magical mirror lodged in his heart. When Jack disappears with an ethereal woman on a sled pulled by wolves, Hazel heads into the wintry and enchanted Minnesota woods to rescue him. A sadness as heavy as a Northwoods snowfall pervades this story, though it has its delights, too. Ursu offers many winks at avid fans of fairy tales and fantasy (Jack's mother looks "like someone had severed her daemon"). The creepy fantasyland that Hazel traverses uses bits from other Andersen tales to create a story that, though melancholy, is beautifully written and wholly original. It's certainly the only children's fantasy around where Minnesota Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer figures into the plot. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-8--Hazel Anderson's 10-year-old world is teetering on the unsteady foundation of her parents' separation, as she is now at a new school where she feels like an outsider, both as a dreamer and as an adoptee from South Asia. She is bullied and misunderstood, and her best friend, Jack, is spending more time with his male friends than with her. When a demon drops a shard of an enchanted mirror into his eye and he becomes drugged and manic under its influence, he accompanies the Snow Queen into the woods. During her search for him, Hazel's realistic world collides with surreal fantasy and she is thrown into the eerie, threatening woods of broken and transformed fairy tales. She encounters shadowy threats in the form of creepy, unscrupulous adults who have their own agendas and victims: a girl ensnared in the body of a bird, and children trapped as flowers. Hazel's challenge consists largely in persisting in her quest to rescue Jack despite her insecurity about their friendship and the lack of a breadcrumb path in a confusing world. Unlike the triumphant ending of Andersen's "Snow Queen," Hazel's rescue of Jack and its aftermath is realistically bittersweet. Jack is who he is, a boy who is growing away from her. It is Hazel who is changed by her experience, and who learns to approach her life with positive energy. Although this is a fantasy, its grounding in psychological realism and focus on Hazel's feelings makes it a fine choice for readers who prefer realistic fiction. Ursu's multilayered, dreamlike story stands out from the fantasy/quest pack.--Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City[Page 141]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.