So it turns out that it is difficult to find YA authors whose last name starts with ‘U’ – go figure. Karen asked me to cheat and do a middle grade author for our ‘U’ day for YA A to Z, because she knows how much I love Anne Ursu. You should love her, too. Not only does she write beautiful, enthralling middle grade novels that leave me a sobbing emotional wreck for days, she is also a tireless and eloquent advocate for diversity and the interests of children in the publishing community. Which is why she so often makes it into the Friday Finds ‘Authors Being Smart on the Internet’ category.
Breadcrumbs (my favorite of her novels) starts, like so many middle grade novels, at a turning point for the main character, Hazel. She has grown up with her best friend Jack who suddenly abandons her. She is understandably devastated. Her mother tries to help, explaining that this often happens with friendships, and attempting to help her find new friends. It was at this point that the sobbing began for me. I may have unresolved childhood issues. Regardless, Breadcrumbs is able to powerfully evoke this feeling of childhood loss with a palpable ache. The writing only becomes more brilliant as the story moves from our world into the realm of fantasy and Hazel attempts to rescue her friend Jack from an evil witch. It is modeled somewhat on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, but also weaves in elements from his other stories. An absolutely stunning story, this is also helpful to have on hand for middle graders who are beginning to deal with some of the more harsh realities of life.
I book talked both Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy last week with one 6th grade class, introducing Anne Ursu as an author. All of my copies were gone in seconds. Her books have real appeal to children. In fact, earlier this year, one of my 6th grade students found Breadcrumbs on the shelf and brought it up to check out and tell me, “This was my favorite book last year – I’m going to read it again!” I was so pleased to be able to hand her a copy of The Real Boy (once I had finished attaching the cover.)
More recently, Anne has been a vocal advocate for diversity in children’s and young adult literature. She can be found passionately advocating for diverse voices and perspectives in the comments sections of certain tone deaf blog posts. She regularly responds with great depth of thought and reason to specious claims made in the media which attempt to marginalize and devalue children’s literature. In deconstructing the popular narrative about it, Anne illuminates the true value of books for children and young adults, as well as the value of their readers. You can visit her Tumblr for several excellent examples – this one is my favorite.
Anne Ursu lives in Minneapolis, MN with her son and multiple cats. In addition to her writing, she teaches Writing for Children in the Hamline University Master of Fine Arts program. She received the 2013 McKnight Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, which awards a Minnesotan writer a stipend so they can pursue their writing unhindered. Both Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy have been featured as IndieBound Next list picks. Breadcrumbs was featured on multiple Best of 2011 lists and was a featured title on NPR’s Backseat Book Club. The Real Boy was chose for the National Book Award long list.
- The Real Boy (2013)
- Breadcrumbs (2011)
- The Cronus Chronicles
- The Shadow Thieves (2006)
- The Siren Song (2008)
- The Immortal Fire (2009)
You can find Anne online