Join the KidLit Monday meme @ TeachMentorTexts
Kate Messner’s The Seventh Wish is one of those stories that begins in expected, middle grade oriented ways, and then swerves unexpectedly into uncharted territories. Spoiler alert: I’ll be referring to those uncharted territories, so don’t read on if you want to discover these for yourself as you read the book.
Here’s a synopsis of the story, from the jacket copy:
Charlie feels like she’s always coming in last. From her Mom’s new job to her sister’s life away at college, everything else always seems to be more important than Charlie’s upcoming dance competition or science project. Unsure of how to get her family’s attention, Charlie comes across the surprise of her life one day while ice-fishing . . . in the form of a floppy, scaly fish offering to grant her a wish in exchange for its freedom. Charlie can’t believe her luck until she realizes that this fish has a funny way of granting wishes, despite her best intentions. But when her family faces a challenge bigger than any they’ve ever experienced, Charlie wonders if some things might be too important to risk on a wish.
Charlie is your typical middle school kid: she wants to do well in school, she loves her self-chosen extra curricular activity with a passion, she has an unrequited crush, and she feels good about the close bond she shares with her family (they even have a word association game they’ve invented just for themselves – what’s not to love about a family who can do that?!).
Charlie also has a wonderfully dry sense of humor, which makes the first person narration of this story one that is filled with chuckles and laugh out loud moments. Her discovery of this magic fish, unlikely in size and unpredictable in his accuracy at wish granting, give the first part of the story a fantastical and funny quality.
Then, the story swerves into darker territory when it comes to light that Charlie’s older sister Abby, off to college for the first time, has developed an addiction to heroin. This explains the changes in Abby: she is hard to get ahold of when away at school, and tired and unwell when she visits home. Charlie is devastated.
But, Charlie and Abby are blessed with parents who remain steadfast in their love – they do what is necessary to help Abby regain her health, without getting hysterical and judgemental. They see that their daughter needs help, they make sure she gets it. And they help Charlie to understand that sometimes the best people, the ones who seem to have it all together on the outside, just take the wrong path and need love and support to find their way back.
In her “Author’s Note”, Kate Messner writes that this book was scary to research and write. It is scary to read, too, because it reveals that addiction can happen in the most “normal” families, and that this disease knows no socio economic boundaries. It is no secret that heroin addiction is on the rise today, and its link to opioid pain killers (which is over prescribed to children and adults) is also a well established fact. Kate Messner’s brave book will allow young readers to learn of these important issues in a gentle way. It’s a book to share with our middle school kids, a cautionary story which does not offer a “happily ever after” ending. Young readers will learn, as Charlie did, “…that addiction is a real thing that can happen. That good people make awful mistakes…”.