by Kate Messner
Bloomsbury, 2016. 228 pages.
This is a nice quiet middle grade story with a touch of fantasy. It reminds me of Edward Eager books – dealing with wishes – except that it’s only one kid figuring out the wishes instead of a family of brothers and sisters.
I like all the details in this book. Charlie (short for Charlotte) lives in a town where winters and long and cold and her neighbors like to go ice fishing. Charlie’s always been afraid to go far out on the ice – until one day at a hole in the ice at a shallow part of the lake, she catches a fish with sparkling green eyes. It promises her a wish if she releases it.
Charlie thinks she must be imagining it, so she makes a frivolous wish – that Roberto Sullivan (the cutest boy in her school) will fall in love with her and that she won’t be afraid to go on the ice.
Instantly, she is no longer afraid. She goes out on the ice with the others and catches more fish. She starts to forget about it – and then the next day at school Robert O’Sullivan – definitely not the cutest boy in the school – is crazy about her, embarrassing her with love notes.
It turns out that when Charlie fishes at that hole in the ice, she usually catches the fish again – and is promised a wish if she releases it. She tries to help her friends – but wishes don’t always turn out exactly like you hope they will. And when she makes a wish for herself, it especially backfires.
I love all the details in this book. Charlie competes in Irish dancing and wants to save money to get a solo dress for the competition. I knew nothing about Irish dancing or ice fishing.
But the central problem of the book is that Charlie’s older sister who’s off at college turns out to be addicted to heroin. This book reveals how that affects Charlie and how much it affects her whole family.
So what starts as a light-hearted book as Charlie is saving money for a dress and catching fish and having fun with friends – does delve into some heavier issues. But Kate Messner keeps things firmly from the 7th grade protagonist’s perspective.
There is a message, done with a very light touch, about how hard it is to get out of heroin use once you’ve started. And that your life will be much better if you never start. The Serenity Prayer comes up frequently – Charlie does have to learn that she can’t magically fix her sister. Not even with a magic fish.
But mostly it’s a playful story about a seventh grade girl who finds a magic wishing fish.
What would you say if a fish offered you a wish, and you had to come up with a good one in time to let it back in the water?
Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/7th_wish.html
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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.
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