What I’m Reading: Bigger than a Bread Box

Took a break from Marisa de los Santos to read a middle-grade book by a local author: Bigger than a Bread Box. I heard Laurel Snyder speak at the January Atlanta Writers Club meeting, and found her inspiring, especially when she shared that she sent out her first novel 49 times before finding success. I’m currently trying to find representation for my own novel, and “trying” aptly describes the process, in both the sense of an attempt and the sense of something excruciatingly irritating that you wish was over already. It always helps to hear reminders from successful authors that their success didn’t happen overnight.

“Bigger than a Bread Box” is the story of Rebecca Shapiro, a 12-year-old girl who moves with her mother and her baby brother from Baltimore to Atlanta when her parents separate. Rebecca hates being away from her father and wishes her parents would resolve their issues so she can move back home. In the attic of her grandmother’s home where the family is staying, she discovers a magical bread box that can grant any wish, as long as the wish can fit inside the bread box. In the most entertaining plot line of the book, she uses her new-found magic power to win over a contingent of “mean girls” at her new school. Unfortunately, like most realistic books with a magical element, the premise falls a little flat in the book’s conclusion, and I was dissatisfied by the lack of an origin story — even a sketched-in one — for the bread box. Where did it come from? Who else in the world knows of its existence? About three-quarters of the way through the book, a new character is introduced that at first seems likely to lead to these answers, but never does. Still, it’s an entertaining read, and Rebecca seemed like an authentic 12-year-old most of the time, unlike the preternaturally mature Clare Hobbes of de los Santos’s “Love Walked In.”

I checked this book out from my local library, and the children’s librarian who helped me find it on the shelf was curious about it, so I explained to her that I had heard Snyder speak and that I am a YA writer myself. Then she told me this hilarious joke: “How is a YA writer like a broken park bench? Neither of them can support a family.”

Now, I am old enough and just stubborn enough to keep pursuing my chosen career in spite of barbs like that. But I feel for the impressionable children that she must come into contact with every day. Let’s hope she’s a little more compassionate and encouraging when they share their precious career aspirations with her than she is with adults who do the same.