Book Review: Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Title: Wish
Author: Barbara O’Connor
Genre: MG Fiction
Page Count: 236 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Release Date: August 30, 2016

Publisher’s Summary: Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

From award-winning author Barbara O’Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.

My Thoughts: This book sold like hotcakes both years I volunteered at the book fair at my son’s elementary school. I decided to give it a read. I was pleasantly surprised by such a sweet story about a little girl struggling with her anger when she’s sent to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her aunt and uncle. Charlie’s father is in jail and her mother is sadly negligent. Thankfully, her aunt and uncle have hearts of gold and take her in as their own. At first, Charlie is prejudiced against the little mountain town and its “hillbilly kids” who probably “eat squirrel.” But, with the help of a scrawny puppy who’s a stray like her, Charlie learns to love her new home.

Throughout the story is the motif of wishes and every possible superstition surrounding them – blowing on dandelions, knocking on wood, etc. Of course, Charlie is constantly wishing for one outcome she wants…only to discover that maybe it’s the other outcome she needs. A heartwarming story for fans of books like Because of Winn-Dixie.

Book Review: Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally Carter

Title: Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor
Author: Ally Carter
Genre: MG Mystery
Page Count: 336 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 3, 2020

Publisher’s Summary: April didn’t mean to start the fire. She wasn’t the one who broke the vase. April didn’t ask to go live in a big, creepy mansion with a bunch of orphans who just don’t understand that April isn’t like them. After all, April’s mother is coming back for her someday very soon.

All April has to do is find the clues her mother left inside the massive mansion. But Winterborne House is hiding more than one secret, so April and her friends are going to have to work together to unravel the riddle of a missing heir, a creepy legend, and a mysterious key before the only home they’ve ever known is lost to them forever.

My Thoughts: April is an orphan with nothing but a mysterious key and the sadly misguided conviction that the mother who abandoned her long ago intends to eventually come back for her. When April accidentally sets a museum on fire trying to find the lock for her key, she’s sent to live with her new foster family at the Winterborne mansion. There she learns the mystery of the missing heir, Gabriel Winterborne, and begins to wonder if the old mansion is haunted. April makes new friends – and enemies – at the Winterborne House, all the while driven by her determination to find the key to her mother’s lock.  

Winterborne Home… is classic Ally Carter, complete with a team of kids with extreme skills, witty writing, mystery, high-stakes danger and adventure. I was unhappy, though, that it ended on a cliffhanger without solving one of the story’s central mysteries. I hope not too much time passes before the release of Book 2.