The Wish in the Bottle

Book review by
Norah Caroline Piehl, Common Sense Media
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Folkloric tale founders under weight of nostalgia.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Mark is frequently portrayed as physically tougher, emotionally stronger, and smarter than his sisters. Lani, Mark, and Laurie go out at night without their parents' permission.


The siblings are threatened by a bear. They are surrounded by brush fires.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that despite good use of folklore motifs, the story occasionally founders. Bland illustrations and writing that's heavy on the nostalgia may turn off some, though others will find the fairies enchanting.

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What's the story?

Tired of tagging along after her siblings on a nature hike, youngest sister Laurie borrows her brother Mark's butterfly net to capture the biggest, most beautiful butterfly she's ever seen. When the children bottle the creature, however, they're surprised to discover that it's not a butterfly at all. Instead, they've caught an odd-looking, fast-talking fairy named Ocavia, who's wandered miles from her fairy kingdom.

Ocavia grants the children three wishes if they promise to release her. Determined not to squander their own wishes, older siblings Lani and Mark grow exasperated by Laurie's impulsive wishes. When the three travel through the woods to return Ocavia to her fairy home, however, all three children discover that they might need to use their last wish to save Ocavia's home--and their own lives.

Is it any good?

Although certain details might hold the interest of readers who are fascinated by fairies, this weak novel fails to either capture the fairy world or provide a child-centered view of the human one.

Fans of folktales will recognize this novel's premise; a magical creature grants wishes to foolish humans who wish impulsively. While this is enough plot for a folktale, it doesn't sustain a novel. The portrayals of the three main characters aren't enough to carry the novel either; little sister Laurie, for example, is too precious for words. The narrative constantly points out Laurie's cuteness -- her tendency to truncate long words, her devotion to a stuffed animal -- in a treacly depiction of childhood. Indeed, many of the novel's details, such as Lani's adorable nicknames for Laurie, and the children's tendency to break into song, seem aimed more at nostalgic adults than at children.

The same is true of the novel's heavy-handed morals; the author includes numerous platitudes such as "a little sympathy often goes a long way toward sweetening someone's disposition."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the conventions and common elements of fantasy and folklore. How can a story that uses a familiar premise, such as the granting of wishes, remain fresh and interesting to readers? Families can also talk about what they would wish for and why.

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