I was introduced to Kate Messner’s book The Seventh Wish by its choice for our de Grummond Book Group for the January read. Almost simultaneously, a discussion arose among writer friends on Facebook about Kate being uninvited to a school as a guest author because of the book’s content. Of course, this added to my eagerness to read.
A light-hearted look at a magic fish as Charlie accompanies her friend Drew and his grandmother Mrs. McNeil on their ice-fishing excursions mingles with the serious problem of what is happening to her sister Abby. A freshman in college, Abby’s grades and health have taken a mysterious nose dive.
The first time Charlie pulls the tiny emerald-eyed fish from the hole in the ice, it promises to grant a wish in exchange for freedom. Starting easy, she asks for Roberto Sullivan to fall in love with her. Later she asks for Drew to be selected for the basketball team to live up to his father’s expectations. The fish lacks perfection since it is Bobby O’Sullivan who begins to pass her notes and Drew’s basketball playing segues into a mascot assignment. Her wishes come out close enough to keep her trying.
Other elements of her life are friendships with Catherine whose forgetfulness of her five-pound flour “baby” may ruin her grade and Dasha who needs to score high enough in her English language class to move into regular classes. The upcoming dance competitions and her science project complete a normal life until her parents get the phone call about Abby.
Abby has been caught. Her health and grade problems come from an addiction to opiate drugs. Charlie’s interests become secondary from this point with her parents’ focus and schedules shifted to Abby’s needs as she goes to a rehabilitation center. A realistic picture emerges in the effect the addiction has on the drug user and her family, the difficulties of becoming and staying clean, and the inability of those who love Abby, including Charlie, to fix her problem.
In the end, Charlie realizes that she needs more than magic. She accepts the wisdom of her friend’s grandmother “We can wish on clovers and shooting stars and ice flowers all we want. But in the end, the only real magic is what’s inside us and the people we love.”
As for the discussion on the appropriateness of the book and author in schools, I see the empathy young readers will develop and the understanding that one can never become completely “cured” of an addiction as an effective cautionary tale. Not only would I recommend it for preteens and up, but I would recommend that parents and teachers read and discuss it with them.