A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Shows how to care for a dog. Lots of detail about the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains and how "squirrel-eating hillbillies" does not define the people who live there. Bible school, Bible stories, and Bible-centered games play a large role in the story.
Charlie's aunt Bertha says, "You can't judge people for the mistakes they make. You judge them for how they fix those mistakes." Howard urges Charlie to keep repeating "Pineapple" to distract herself from getting mad and punching people. Older sister Jackie says, regarding their dysfunctional parents, "Nothing's gonna change, Charlie. I used to think it would but now I don't. Scrappy is gonna keep being Scrappy and Mama is gonna keep being Mama and you and I are on our own. No magic wand is gonna fix things."
Positive Role Models
Charlie starts out mad at the world -- and who can blame her, given the parents she's been dealt and their behavior that's landed her in a strange place -- and tends to hit people who are mean to her. She also surprises even herself by making things up and saying mean things to people who love her. But the steadfast love of her aunt and uncle, the unflinching friendship of Howard and his large, affectionate family, and most of all her bond with the dog Wishbone put her on a different path. Possibly to a real home for the first time in her life. Her older sister Jackie is kind, loving, upbeat -- and realistic about the fact that their parents will never change. In the past, a woman leaves her husband and small children to "start a new life."
Violence & Scariness
Charlie occasionally kicks, punches, shoves, or otherwise strikes back physically at those who tease her -- and those who make fun of her friend Howard's limp. This, she learns, is not the Vacation Bible School way. "'What the heck, Charlie?' Howard said. 'You gonna smack somebody at church?'" In the past, Charlie's 7-year-old mom bit a bully and "hollered cuss words at him" as he fled.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
In the past, a character's friend is described as marrying one guy and then running off with his brother. Charlie is stunned when herr aunt and uncle hold hands, as she's never seen a couple do this, certainly not her own squabbling parents.
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Products & Purchases
One of Charlie's few fond memories of her much-incarcerated dad is watching Wheel of Fortune together. Occasional scene-setting mentions of local Southern businesses like Piggly Wiggly, Waffle House. Her aunt gets her Cinderella sheets.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief humor about a man who got drunk and lost his false teeth at a church picnic. Charlie suspects her older sister is "smoking cigarettes with some boy in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Wish is a New York Times best-selling story for middle-grade readers by Southern U.S. author Barbara O'Connor. Its angry, neglected 11-year-old narrator finds a better path in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, as she's slowly transformed by her aunt and uncle's love, a neighbor boy's friendship, and most of all by her bond with Wishbone, a stray dog she captures and brings home. Charlie's parents aren't what you'd call a family. Dad (aka Scrappy) is in jail, again, for fighting, which he does a lot. And mom never gets out of bed or pays attention to her kids. Older sister Jackie has been her main protector, but now they're apart; social services has sent Charlie to live with an aunt and uncle she's never met. She befriends a neighbor boy who has no friends and is mocked by other kids for his disability (he walks with a limp). The local Baptist church -- Sunday school, services, fellowship, Vacation Bible School -- is a big part of the social fabric, though along the way Charlie observes that being in the same "church family" doesn't seem to keep people from being mean to each other. There are many moments where she does the wrong thing -- like kicking a mean girl or making a cruel remark in anger. But as her wise and loving aunt points out, it's important to judge people not by their mistakes, but by what they do to fix them.
Is It Any Good?
Barbara O'Connor presents the heartwarming, feisty, funny tale of a girl and a dog who both need saving and find their way to each other and a loving family in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. Eleven-year-old narrator Charlie (cursed with the name Charlemagne from birth, and also with troubled, negligent parents) is relentless in her hope for whatever she's wishing for. She's relatable as she experiences a loving family for the first time--and also as she sabotages it by saying something mean for no reason. Fortunately, the neighbor kid seems determined to stay friends with her. Also she's found a kindred spirit:
"'I think that dog would rather be a stray,' he said.
"But I knew better. I knew what it felt like to be a stray, not having.a home where somebody wanted you. And he was a fighter. Like me. That dog and I had a lot in common. I was suddenly overwhelmed with love for that skinny dog."
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.