Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, starts on a magical, snowy day. There’s still school though so Hazel and her best friend Jack make plans to meet up and go sledding afterward. Since her Dad left her and her mom, things have really changed for Hazel in a bad way. She had to stop going to the fun school where the teachers were happy she had such vivid imagination and creativity. Now Hazel goes to classes where the desks are perfectly lined up all the time, and there is to be no fidgeting. Hazel fidgets anyway.

The other kids don’t get her—some of them are pretty mean calling her Crazy Hazy, and she has given up trying to make friends. It would be a really horrible situation if it weren’t for Jack. As next-door neighbors, they’ve spent hours playing wild games together since they were small—Star Wars, dinosaurs, superhero baseball, robots, and more. They get each other and have gotten each other through some hard times. Hazel knows as long as Jack is her friend, she will be okay. Then one day something terrible happens, and Jack isn’t her friend anymore. Another day goes by, and they haven’t made up. In fact, Jack has gone away.

His parents say he’s left to live with an aunt whom Hazel has never heard of. She finds that very strange. Then Jack's pal Tyler, who normally has nothing nice to say to her, tells Hazel he saw something weird: Jack was getting into a sleigh with a lovely, eerie woman. The sleigh was drawn by giant wolves, and they headed out into the forest behind the sledding hill. Tyler’s never heard of Narnia or anything like that, and he is deadly serious but too afraid to go himself.

So, it’s up to Hazel to face the tempting, horrible, and hurtful things in the woods to find her best friend—even if he doesn’t want to be her friend anymore.