The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner. Bloomsbury, 2016. Available now.
This book has caused a lot of controversy and I'm not sure exactly why.
Basically, it's a retelling of the old folk tale about a fisherman who catches a fish who gives wishes. But the wishes don't turn out exactly as expected. (The Fisherman and his Wife)
In this case, it's a girl who goes ice fishing with friends. (My goodness it must get cold where she is because she talks about the ice eventually becoming several feet thick.)
She catches a small fish who totally surprises her when he speaks - Release me and I will grant you a wish. She was going to throw him back anyway because he's too small, so she quickly makes a wish and drops him back into the hole in the ice. What wish? A typical middle school girl wish - that Roberto Sullivan falls in love with her.
But it's the wrong Roberto Sullivan who falls in love with her.
Each time she makes a wish, it doesn't turn out the way she hoped. Darn.
So, is it the magic/ wishing in the story that is making schools reject this book?
But Messner doesn't write simple stories. She intertwines several plots here.
There's the wrong Roberto plot.
There's the dancing Irish Dancing plot. (We learn a lot about dance class and the tryouts (feis) to move up to advanced classes,
There's the fact that her mother needs a better job.
There's her dance friend who needs to pass her English as a second language class in order to be allowed to attend regular classes at her school.
There's her other friend who has a Flour baby for Home-Ec class - a sack of flour she has to treat like a real live baby to teach her the responsibilities of being a parent.
There's a sister who has gotten into drugs and is now in rehab.
So - which of these plots makes this book unsuitable for school libraries?
None of them, as far as I'm concerned. All the characters are fully developed. The plots intertwine forming a good view of a busy middle schooler's life. And, having had experience with a relative who was a drug addict, the plot about her sister and drugs is spot on. Yes, the drug addict hides his/ her habit from everyone, steals, lies, goes through rehab and then goes back to being on drugs. Again and again.
That last part is very painful for the family and for Charlie herself - because she works so hard to ice fish, selling the fish she caught in order to earn enough money to buy a solo Irish dance costume - and her older sister steals the money to pay for her drug habit. Not only that, she abandons Charlie in a far-off city where she is competing in a feis.
This is a true picture of how drugs take hold of a person and the grief it gives the rest of the family as they try to cope.
Too many children are living through this experience and this book shows these children that they are not alone. And that wishes can't and won't solve our problems. We have to work them out ourselves.
To see more about Kate Messner, search her website here.
Bloomsbury has created teachers' guides for this book which can be found here.