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Author: O'Connor, Barbara
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Year Published: 2016
ISBN: 9780374302733
Grades: Grade 5, Grade 6, Grades 7 to 9

Wish

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Wish is the heartwarming story of a young Grade 5 girl who finds a dog and a family to love.

Her parents named her Charlemagne, but she insists on the name Charlie, which is more in keeping with her feisty, compelling, and rebellious nature.  Canadian readers may not know much about the Blue Ridge Mountains setting, but they will relate to the emotions of anger, resentment and loss that Charlie demonstrates when she is uprooted from her urban home and dysfunctional family (Dad is in jail; Mom is depressed), and sent to live in a small town with an aunt and uncle she does not know.

Charlie sees herself as a “loser that nobody wanted”. Her outrageous behaviour under the circumstances is believable.  She is rude to her aunt, starts fights with the kids at school, and makes fun of Howard (the boy with a limp) and his hillbilly family – the only people who have tried to be her friend.  What is appealing is the supportive and generous nature of those she wants to push away – they never give up on her, never hold a grudge, and constantly give her the strategies, love and patience she needs to come to terms with her anger, her sense of loss and abandonment.  Charlie has designed a coping strategy – every day since grade 4 she has made the same wish.  Because it has not come true yet, it remains a secret, and becomes a recurring motif as Charlie struggles to belong.  When she sees a stray dog, Charlie compares it to herself – a stray that nobody wants – and she is determined to give it a home.  As she spends time with Wishbone, her aunt and uncle, plus Howard and his siblings, Charlie opens up and begins to feel a sense of belonging and family.  Her wish, and Howard’s, are revealed at the end.  Charlie speaks throughout with an honest, authentic voice in a dialect that is not always grammatically correct, but reflects the oral language of the small Blue Ridge town.  Strong male and female characters make it appealing to all readers.  Reminiscent of Because of Winn-Dixie, O’Connor’s Wish is a story of love and patience, building relationships, and finding one’s place.



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