By Awnali Mills
Charlie’s family is a mess. Her father is in jail being “corrected,” and her mother can’t get out of bed. So the state sent her sister Jackie to live with a friend, and Charlie to live with her Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus. Bertha and Gus are absolutely delighted to have Charlie, but Charlie isn’t as thrilled. She has no interest in getting comfortable in the backwoods North Carolina town of Colby, because as soon as her mother is feeling better, she knows she’ll be headed back home.
Still, she slowly forms a friendship with Howard, a kind boy with an up-down walk who introduces her to his crazy family full of boys and mess and love. Together the two of them work on trapping and civilizing a stray dog Charlie has christened Wishbone. Because Charlie is all about wishes. She can tell you everything in the world that lends itself to wishing—a penny on the ground, three birds on a wire, a yellow train car. She never misses a chance to wish, and she’ll never tell you what she’s wishing for (even though it’s been the same wish for years) because if you tell, a wish won’t come true. And Charlie wants her wish more than anything in the world.
Pretty much, if Barbara O’Connor writes a book, I’m gonna like it, and Wish was no exception. Despite Charlie’s fierce temper and tough exterior, she tugs at your heart. She’s had a difficult life and feels so abandoned by her family. For someone with no control over her life, wishes feel like the only means she has to make her life her own. Howard is such a sweet young man that I want to kiss his whole face, but he’s not unrealistic in any way. Despite his handicap, he’s determined to look on the bright side of things, and refuses to be hurt by the teasing he gets. His quiet kindness is a perfect balm for Charlie’s hurt and anger.
I would give this to any child who is having a rough time at home, is in a non-standard living arrangement, or who has temper-control issues. I think they would really identify with Charlie’s situation. Actually, we could all use better temper control, couldn’t we? So, give it to everyone in grades 3-5.