This gentle story has at its heart the old saying “Be careful what you wish for” applied here to ring true for 21st century children. When three siblings and a friend do a good turn for a mysterious old lady, they are rewarded with a wish apiece, but they soon learn that selfish wishes do not bring unmitigated joy.
As they work out how to make the best use of their wishes, they learn life lessons along the way that help them better understand and relate to not only each other but also to the adults in their lives.
The fact that one of the adults in the tale is an aspiring and not always successful magician adds an extra level of interest, likely to give rise to discussion about the true nature of magic. Surely sometimes the best magic is simply the resolution of conflict between friends and family, rather than conjuring tricks, the story seems to say. After all, how many rabbits does a child really need?
Another pleasing layer added to the story is the sense of place. The tale is set in Sacramento, California, with reference to venues that really exist. I’m sure this book will be especially well received in its home town.
This simple tale, well told, is one that children and young adults will easily relate to – and as a fully-fledged adult, I enjoyed it too. The story will be particularly helpful for children who are coping with their parents’ divorce or death, as characters in the story learn to come to terms with both of these challenges and move on.
It also doubles up as a classic tale about the season of goodwill, being set in the run-up to Christmas. I found it refreshing too that the characters were ordinary, relatively hard-up people, living an unidealised life that most young readers will find easy to relate to. (Though I must admit I was slightly anxious about the amount of time the young children are apparently left alone at home to fend for themselves!)
The story ends with a neat setup for a sequel, and I’m sure that anyone who enjoys this book would be glad to hear more adventures from this realistic and likeable family and to see the return of the mysterious old lady who I’m sure still has many more tricks up her sleeve.
In summary, an upbeat, moral, and enjoyable story for the modern era – more, please, Ms Varaden!