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Publishers Weekly Review
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 4-8-Hazel and Jack were friends, once upon a time. The games they played demonstrated rich imaginations and kindred spirits. Then Jack got a sliver of a magic mirror in his eye and his heart grew cold. Soon he was snatched away by an evil woman in a sleigh into a strange magical world where snow and cold abound-a place where his frozen emotions seem perfectly at home. Does Hazel have the heart to risk everything to find her friend and bring him back? In Anne Ursu's book (Walden Pond Press, 2011) we find a creepy, compelling homage to Hans Christian Andersen in a story based on "The Snow Queen." Vibrant threads from other Andersen stories are woven into the tale, creating a brilliant tapestry. There are also references to both classic and modern fantasy tales, showing that all are related. The underlying theme of friendship that is constant and true, sacrifice, and choosing reality over fantasy is beautifully written. Kirby Heyborne reads without background noises or musical embellishment, allowing the story to stand on its own so that listeners can enjoy its rich language and gentle messages.-Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Hazel, a fifth-grader who lives with her divorced mother, isn't adjusting well to her new school. Worse, her one dependable friendship, with her next-door-neighbor Jack, has become unstable. When glass falls from the sky and into Jack's eye, its source is a mystery, but readers are told that a shard of magic mirror, shattered by a goblin high above the earth, caused the injury. Soon afterward, a white witch lures him to a frozen pond, where he lives while Hazel braves the terrors of the magic woods to rescue him. Mixing realistic and fantastic realms is a chancy endeavor, but Ursu draws readers into lonely Hazel's world and makes her quest a compelling story. Throughout the text are allusions to fairy tales, principally Andersen's The Snow Queen, as well as classic and contemporary children's books. These allusions will enrich the narrative in proportion to the reader's knowledge of the originals. This fantasy features polished prose, a carefully crafted story, and a hauntingly beautiful dust jacket.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2010 Booklist
Horn Book Review
In Ursu's riff on Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, Hazel, already unhappy in school, is demoralized further when her good friend Jack suddenly refuses to have anything to do with her and, instead, plays with his male schoolmates. Then he disappears altogether, without warning. But Hazel knows a fairy tale when she sees one: she heads into the woods, successfully negotiates the duplicitous characters she meets there, and wins Jack from the Snow Queen by reminding him of their shared past. Hazel's perceptiveness, Ursu suggests, comes from her love of reading fantasy; indeed, Ursu alludes explicitly to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; The Golden Compass; The Wizard of Oz; A Wrinkle in Time; When You Reach Me; "The Little Match Girl"; Coraline; and the Harry Potter books, among others. For those who aren't already fantasy readers, such allusions may pose an impenetrable code; for those who are, the references shed an unflattering light on Ursu's less logically and imaginatively coherent fantasy. Which is not to say that Ursu is without her strengths: her prose, although sometimes overwrought, is more often pungent, humorous, and vivid ("Hazel's mom drove their car like it was an emotionally unstable bear"). Her potent evocation of midwinter Minneapolis is memorable; so, too, is her evocation of that moment when you realize a dear friend may have outgrown you. deirdre f. baker From HORN BOOK, Copyright The Horn Book, used with permission.
Kirkus Book Review
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 Reviews, used with permission.