Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free reign so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Today’s guest is Anne Ursu, Middle Grade author extraordinaire, here to talk about her newest book, Breadcrumbs. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen”, Breadcrumbs is the story of an intrepid, brave girl as she fights to save her best friend from a cold, lonely fate.

Please give a warm welcome to Anne!

I never read “The Snow Queen” as a child. I remember finding Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales a little strange—I was more at home in the dark, tangled forest of Grimm. And then two winters ago I went to a ten-day residency at Hamline University, where I teach with the MFA in writing for children. At a faculty meeting, someone commented that writers all had “their” fairy tale. Everyone nodded, and our program head said hers was “The Snow Queen.” Since she was my boss, I thought I should probably read it.

Anyway, I was stuck. I hadn’t been able to start writing a book since I’d finished my trilogy a year before. I didn’t know how to write for any characters other than the ones I’d just spent five years with, and I was in a long, uncomfortable period of waiting for some story to grab hold of me.

That residency, my colleague Jacqueline Briggs-Martin gave a lecture on setting in fairy tales and folk tales and she told us, “If you’re stuck, go read these stories.” And the editor Wendy Lamb came to speak and told us that no one could understand why she was willingly going to Minnesota in January. She leaned in and said, “I think magic is closer to the surface in the snow.”

That did it. I picked up “The Snow Queen” when I got home and was struck by the story of a girl whose best friend gets a piece of enchanted mirror in his eye and then stops being her friend. This is part of growing up, after all—we lose friends as we grow and change. But in this case, the girl decides she’s going to get her friend back.

The story took hold of me and I had my book—a contemporary retelling of “The Snow Queen” that would really be about friendship and the challenges of growing up. And stuff. And that’s how the book began to lay itself out before me: Hazel is a Minneapolis fifth grader and Jack is her very best friend in the world. One day Jack gets injured on the playground, the next he’s cruel to Hazel, and a couple of days after that he disappears. Hazel learns he’s gone into the woods—taken by a mysterious woman in white, and because she’s his best friend, she goes in after him.

Hazel and the Swan, illustration by Erin McGuire

When I started writing I didn’t know what would happen to Hazel in the woods. Gerda’s adventures in Andersen’s tale are scattered and don’t have much connection to the broader story. I decided to make the woods a sort of dark Hans Christian Andersen theme park, with characters who could have come from his tales. I wanted Hazel’s adventures to challenge her and change her, and I wanted them to have resonance with the ideas I’d planned to explore about, you know, growing up and stuff. I scattered thresholds, put in imagery of transformation, of permanence and impermanence, nostalgia, time.

I gave the first draft to Laura Ruby, my author friend whom I make read everything I write. She told me in her gentle way that she thought the book was actually about grief. I smiled and nodded, secure in my knowledge that it was about growing up; I had imagery, after all. And I handed the first draft in to Jordan Brown, my annoyingly perceptive editor, and he said that this was indeed a story about the process of growing up, about the way things shift and fall away—but “more importantly,” it was a story about the way we deal with pain, grief, and loss.

They were right. I was writing about grief and loss and I didn’t even know it. You don’t tell your story what it’s about—your story tells you. It sneaks up very quietly while you’re blithely skipping around scattering images of birds and flowers and stuff. Breadcrumbs’ Andersen-World woods is populated with people who have retreated there because they are trying to escape from grief in one way or another—because they’ve bought into the idea that there is somehow escape to be had. Jack thinks so too—he leaves the difficulties of real life for a fairy tale. And, like everyone else in the woods, a fairy tale world is one Hazel thinks she knows how to navigate, one she wants to navigate; in the real world you lose friends, but in fairy tales you can rescue them. But one thing I learned reading Andersen’s stories as an adult—in fairy tales, getting what you want comes at a cost.

Inspiration lets a story start spinning its way out of our heads onto a page, but after that the story takes control. I thought I was writing a contemporary fairy tale, but I think it ended up being about leaving fairy tales behind.

Neither Hazel nor I finished this book in the place we thought we would when we started. But that’s the whole point of journeys, after all.

About The Author:

Anne Ursu is the author of the three middle-grade novels that comprise the Cronus Chronicles trilogy: The Shadow Thieves, The Siren Song, and The Immortal Fire. She teaches at Hamline University’s MFA program in Writing for Children and is a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her son and cats.

Breadcrumbs Blog Tour Details:

For more about Breadcrumbs and Anne Ursu, make sure to check out the following stops:

Monday, 9/26 – Guest Post at The Book Whisperer

Tuesday, 9/27 – Review and Book Giveaway at Mundie Kids

Wednesday, 9/28 – Review and Skype Giveaway at Great Kid Books

Wednesday, 9/28 – Book Giveaway at 5 Minutes for Books

Thursday, 9/29 – Interview at Bildungsroman

Friday, 9/30 – Review, Guest Post, and Book Giveaway at Bookalicious

Saturday, 10/1 – Interview and Skype Giveaway at Kid Lit Frenzy

Sunday, 10/2 – Review, Interview, and Book Giveaway at The Reading Zone

Monday, 10/3 – Guest Post at Galleysmith

Tuesday, 10/4 – Review at Galleysmith

Tuesday, 10/4 – Guest Post, Review, and Book Giveaway at The Book Smugglers

Wednesday, 10/5 – Review and Illustrator Interview at A Backwards Story

Thursday, 10/6 – Guest Post at The Mod Podge Bookshelf

Friday, 10/7 – Interview at Book Rat

Also, for those that are interested, today (Tuesday, 10/4) at 8pm EST Anne Ursu (@anneursu) and Bigger Than a Breadbox author Laurel Snyder (@LaurelSnyder) will doing a chat hosted by Paul W. Hankins (@PaulWHankins) called “Magic is Real: Fantasy, Magic, and Realism in Middle Grade” under the hashtag #magicisreal. Make sure to stop by to tweet with these phenomenal MG authors!


We have ONE copy of Breadcrumbs up for grabs! The contest is open to addresses in the U.S. and will run until Saturday, October 8 at 11:59PM (PST). In order to enter, simply leave a comment here letting us know which fairy tale is your favorite. Only one entry per person, please – multiple comments will be disqualified. Good luck!

Also, make sure to stop by later today to check out our review of Breadcrumbs!

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71 Responses to Breadcrumbs Blog Tour & Giveaway: Anne Ursu on Inspirations & Influences

  1. Martha M. says:

    My favorite fairy tale has to be Sleeping Beauty and that is because it is the first movie I remember watching in a theater as a child and the dragon scared me so much.

  2. NinjaPenguin says:

    I’ve never really thought about it before, but I guess my favorite fairy tale would be Hansel and Gretel. It has kids being smart and a scary witch and that awesome gingerbread house.

  3. bookharlot says:

    I always loved The Nightingale.

  4. Katie says:

    My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast!

  5. Liz says:

    The Goose Girl is probably my favorite. It always stood out to me when I was younger.

  6. I know this is silly but I have always loved Cinderella. I know, I know, it is all that is wrong with young girls and all that. BUT, for me, it was never about the Prince. It was about the mean step sisters and step mother getting what was coming to them in the end! I guess the Prince is pretty awesome too.

    I would love to win Breadcrumbs, I want to read it with my daughter!

  7. Lindsay Elizabeth says:

    I remember reading “The Glass Coffin” when I was little, and loving it.

  8. Teresa says:

    Beauty and the Beast. I love stories where a person has to look beyond what a person looks like to see what is really inside.

  9. Heather R. says:

    I have never read The Snow Queen, but after reading this I think I may to pick it up. Fave fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood. I remember seeing the movie “The Company of Wolves” when I was a kid and that pretty much sealed the deal for me:) Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. Stephanie T. says:

    My favorite is Beauty & The Beast because Robin Mckinley has done such an awesome job on depicting that fairytale that you just can’t help but fall in love with it.

  11. MarieC says:

    I’ve always loved the ‘The Selfish Giant’ by Oscar Wilde

  12. Justine says:

    Cinderella is a true classic — but not the saccharine Disney version!

  13. Gina Damico says:

    Rumplestiltskin. I like anything with a cranky old troll.

  14. Dawn Kaiser says:

    Beauty and the Beast!

  15. Rose J says:

    While I have enjoyed many of the fairy tales other people have commented on, I remember being fascinated by Rumpelstiltskin when I was growing up. It is still my favorite.

  16. bigfoot24 says:

    I really love Shannon Hale’s retelling of Maid Maleen in her book “Book of a Thousand Days”. I love the heroine in this book and her story is beautiful.

  17. Sam S. says:

    My favorite is “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” a Japanese fairy tale.

  18. jpetroroy says:

    I’ve always been a fan of The Little Mermaid.

  19. I loved Cinderella as a kid!

  20. Jocelyn C. says:

    I rather like the original sad version of The Little Mermaid.

  21. Sheila says:

    “The White Cat” has always resonated with me.

  22. Jasmine Rose says:

    I think Hansel & Gretel is my favorite, even the creepier original version. There are some super fantastic ones out there though.

  23. Julia says:

    My favorite is Sleeping Beauty. Being narcoleptic, I’ve always felt a kinship with her.

  24. Kaethe says:

    Yay, I love Anne Ursu! My favorite fairytale is The Boy who Drew Cats

  25. Carolyn Hester says:

    I will always be a Beauty and the Beast girl (I mean, the Beast gives her a library! What book-lover among us wouldn’t swoon at that?). Anyways, I’ve been craving to read something magical ever since I finished the delightful The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, and this sounds like it could be the one. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  26. Heidi says:

    I have always been a lover of Hans Christian Andersen slightly over Grimm (though I do love those brothers). Perhaps because of my love of winter and the north. The Snow Queen is the fairy tale that haunted me above all other growing up. For years I was afraid to look out the window at night, particularly when there was frost on it for fear that I would see the Snow Queen’s face floating outside.

    That said, my favorite is Andersen’s Little Mermaid. It’s tragic, romantic, and beautiful. It more or less paved the way for my favorite types of stories to this day. I’ve even made the pilgrimage to Copenhagen to see her.

    I cannot wait to read this book! Also, go Twins (you know…next year)!

  27. Andrew Wencl says:



  28. Beauty and the Beast–I still remember when the Disney movie came out and rocked my little world.

  29. John says:

    While it’s not a traditional fairy tale, I was enchanted with the movie Anastasia as a child. I found it to be compelling, and the Anastasia myth/fairy tale has always been one of my favorites. I also loved another gem of a movie that isn’t well known – The Swan Princess. That is another fairy tale that doesn’t get much hype, but it enchants me with its magic and romance.

  30. Meredith says:

    I have always adored Beauty and the Beast. I have a fairy tale book, and the pages of that story are well-worn.

  31. Emilia says:

    Little Red Riding Hood is my favorite fairy tale.

  32. Scribe Kira says:

    beauty and the beast, sleeping beauty, and the goose girl

  33. Hannah Koppers says:

    I’m a big fan of the Little Mermaid. Not the Disney one, but the old one, that has a sad ending. Good stuff.

  34. jenmitch says:

    the story i always loved to hear as a child was the twelve dancing princesses. something about getting to travel through a gorgeous enchanted forest and party all night was just soo appealing to me! still is, actually…

  35. Mia says:

    When I was a kid (like many other kids, I imagine), I had a collection of fairy tales. The illustrations in my book kind of freaked me out, and maybe that’s why I still remember it. I don’t know if I’d call it my favorite, but one that stands out in my memory was the story of Titty Mouse and Tatty Mouse, mostly because I never really understood it–maybe it’s a critique on useless/harmful mourning rites?–and also because it not only fits into the tradition of morbid fairy tales everywhere, the entire story centers around one of the characters getting scalded to death.

  36. Emily Thompson says:

    Thumbelina is a good one, or Sleeping Beauty. Both were very prominent in my childhood. Still are prominent in my “child”hood. (:

  37. When I was growing up, it was Sleeping Beauty. Now I think I’m partial to Beauty and the Beast, though there are so many retellings and reimaginings. Still a great basic story.

  38. pscott says:

    I always loved the Snow Queen because the girl got to save the boy instead of the other way around. Also, I had a beautiful illustrated version that may have swayed my opinion!

  39. Stephanie O. says:

    My favorite fairy tale is probably The Goose Girl. I absolutely love the retelling by Shannon Hale, which opened my eyes to YA fairy tale retellings, now one of my favorite genres ever. To me, it’s the perfect fairy tale.

  40. Victoria Zumbrum says:

    My favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast. Please enter me in contest.

  41. LiLi says:

    My favorite fairy tale has to be Snow White.

  42. Brooke says:

    I’m rather partial to the stories in The People Could Fly by Viriginia Hamilton.

  43. Tiffany M. says:

    For the mainstream fairytales, I have been a fan of Beauty and the Beast. Not as popular, but still heard of, I really love Snow White and Rose Red.

  44. Stephanie K. says:

    My favorite is Beauty and the Beast.

  45. Missie says:

    What I really love are fairy tale retellings, where they play with elements…much like Breadcrumbs! Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis (a retelling of Cupid and Psyche) is one of my favorite books ever. But if I were to choose one of the traditional tales, I’d go with Beauty and the Beast.

  46. Deserae says:

    My favorite fairytale is the one of Rapunzel. I remember reading a version that was so grotesque, real, and raw— the original is always the best! (Although, I admittedly loved Tangled so retellings are definitely worth the read.)

    Thanks for this opportunity!

  47. capillya says:

    I loved reading about Anne’s inspiration for writing this book, and then how her writing process gave her a beginning, but where she wasn’t sure how it would end. And the JOURNEY. This book sounds magical. And that’s before even getting to eyeball those illustrations!

    My favorite fairy tale is another HCA — but I found out about it via Disney/Pixar: The Little Match Girl. Probably one of the most depressing but beautiful fairy tales. I cried when I watched it.

    If you’ve never seen it:

  48. Kay-Kay-Bay says:

    “Snow White & Rose Red”. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because both sister are equal, as opposed to many fairytales where only one sibling is important or good.

  49. Scarlett says:

    I would have to go with the classic tale of ‘The Little Mermaid.’ I grew up with the disney version memorized. I literally told my parents to call me Ariel. Dressed up as a mermaid for halloween (thanks for the costume mom!) and played pretend with my friends. Eric was cute, but I think the main reason I connected so well with ariel was the red hair. Gingers represent!

    Thanks for hosting this giveaway!

  50. Carlinne says:

    I can’t wait to read this book. My favorite fairy tale is Rapunzel.

  51. Moira says:

    My favorite fairy tale is the original “Little Mermaid”. The way she turns into sea foam at the end is sad, but makes a good point. It’s a beautiful story, with a lot of depth and meaning behind the fairy tale surface.

  52. Jen B. says:

    I am not a big fairytale fan from my childhood. I always liked the stories about the Four Horsemen and Death. I liked stories about the various Pantheons. As an adult, I am the same way. The most recent fairytale that I liked was the story of Ponyo. The only version I am familiar with is the cartoon movie version but it is a lovely story. Breadcrumbs sounds like a wonderful book. I would love to read it. It sounds like a good book for my kids to read. Thanks for the giveaway.

  53. Anita Yancey says:

    My favorite fairy tale is Sleeping Beauty. Love to read this book. Thanks for the chance.

  54. Audra Holtwick says:

    Sleeping Beauty is also my Favorite

  55. Julie Witt says:

    My favorite fairy tale is Little Red Riding Hood! I tell it to my son just about every night before bed :) Thanks for an awesome giveaway!!

  56. Maureen says:

    I would say Little Red Riding Hood.

  57. Teri C says:

    I love Tam Lin. That would have to be my all time favorite fairy tale. This book sounds amazing. I love the references to fairy tales that are throughout the book.

  58. Morgan says:

    My favorite fairytale I used to read over and over as a child was Princess Furball by Charlotte Huck and Anita Lobel.

  59. hapax says:

    My favorite would have to be an odd one, “Felicia and the Pot of Pinks.” The story has all the traditional tropes, but strung together in a way that makes no sense at all, except with a certain dreamlike logic.

    I must have read that one dozens of times, trying to force it into coherence.

  60. Ellie says:

    My favorite fairy tale is the Little Mermaid.

  61. Rebecca says:

    Sleeping Beauty, I just love it!

  62. Carol M says:

    This sounds good! My favorite is Peter Pan.

  63. Allison says:

    My favorite fairy tale has to be Peter Pan<3

  64. Amanda says:

    My all time favorite is East of the sun, West of the moon.

  65. Amanda says:

    My all time favorite is East of the sun, West of the moon

  66. ??? Raven In A Blue Room ??? says:

    my favorite fairy tale is Cinderella

    Thank you for hosting this giveaway

    pumuckler {at} gmail {dot} com

  67. Serena says:

    The Snow Queen was my favorite story as a child. I can’t wait to read this!

  68. bookworm134 says:

    I have never been good at picking favorites!…But I guess the beauty and the beast story was always close to my heart…Beauty loved to read and wanted adventures but when she gets locked away she has to open up her mind that maybe life is the adventure..

    Thanks for the great giveaway! Rock my black socks!

  69. Hoot says:

    I want to read this book so bad. I just can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  70. [...] Book Smugglers interview  with author. [...]

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