Last night, I got into a deep discussion with my fiancée about the rules of magical wishing. Though every story about wishing varies, one golden rule and one golden consequence seem to prevail: the wish must be a selfless act, and there is always a catch. Kate Messner’s The Seventh Wish (Grades 3-6) spurred this conversation about wishes. In it, the aforementioned formula indeed plays out when 12-year-old Charlie Brennan goes ice-fishing and catches a talking, wish-granting fish.

Charlie is determined to buy the perfect solo dress for her Irish dance competition, or feis, and to enjoy her seventh grade year with all of her family and friends. Readers will be able to relate to this little sister as she struggles to understand the challenges her loved ones face and her eagerness to want to help make things better, even if her wishes don’t turn out the way she intends! With the unexpected drug issues her older sister battles, nothing Charlie has ever experienced could have prepared her for the obstacles her family will endure.

As she contemplates the Serenity Prayer and what it means to know the difference between things she can and cannot control, Charlie fumbles by wishing her loved ones into situations that just aren’t meant to be. Still, she can’t help but try to figure out the perfect wording to make her wishes come true exactly the way she wants them! As she goes on to say:

“When you’re in English class reading stories about wishes, it’s easy to see things coming…and we’re all kinds of smug about it. We would have wished so much smarter than those dumb story-people. Our wishes would have worked out a lot better. But it’s a totally different deal when you’re out on the ice with a talking fish flopping between your mittens.”

Through Charlie’s point of view, Kate Messner is able to discuss very mature subject matter in terms children will be able to understand, exploring the hardships that loved ones can experience. In this coming-of-age novel, readers will grow with Charlie as she struggles to understand one of life’s most difficult lessons: not everything is in our control, even when you have a wish-wielding fish!

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