The latest Cybils Novel (Middle grade Fantasy & Science Fiction) finalist almost broke my heart. My fifth grader is also unhappy in school, and I suspect that much of our "help" and advice sounds like the fake plastic words that try to smother Hazel in Anne Ursu's Breadcrumbs. Their troubles and problems are completely different, but their misery and bafflement at what people do to try to help sound crushingly familiar.
Ursu's words and images bring the interior life of a fifth grader vividly to life, and when Hazel pushes out of the real world and into the forest of fables and stories to rescue her friend the metaphors work unerringly -- the woodcutter, the garden of flowers, the match girl. Hazel never gets extra powers, but she almost despite herself clings to an inner core of strength -- she wants to rescue her friend because he was her friend, no matter what happens in the future.
I may request this book from the library again, because I'm curious as to how my kids would like it; unfortunately everyone else in my county wants to read this too, so my copy has to go back.