HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Wish Giver: Three Tales of Coven Tree
Author: Bill Brittain
Illustrator: Andrew Glass
Publisher: HarperCollins, reissued 1986
Language level: 2
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Brittain, Bill. The Wish Giver: Three Tales of Coven Tree (published in 1983 by Harper and Row Publishers Inc., 10 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022; republished in 1988 by Scholastic Inc., 730 Broadway, New York City, NY 10003). Coven Tree is a small village somewhere in New England which was named for a huge, twisted tree in the area around which covens of witches once gathered. The local storekeeper, Stewart Meade, known locally as “Stew Meat,” tells the story of the mysterious Thaddeus Blinn who sets up a tent at the town’s church social and sells tickets promising to grant any wish for fifty cents.
Stewart buys one of the tickets, and so do three young people. Eleven year old Polly Kemp has the bad habit of speaking her mind which makes people ignore her, and she wants folks to pay attention to her. Fifteen year old Rowena Jervis is in love with travelling salesman Henry Piper, and she wants him to put down roots in Coven Tree. Sixteen year old Adam Fisk’s family lives on a farm that is dryer than a desert where he has to haul water from a distant stream, and he wants them to have water all over the place. What do Polly, Rowena, and Adam each wish for? How will their wishes be fulfilled? And what can they do to solve any problems created by those wishes?
This story, which was named a Newbery Honor Book in 1984, illustrates the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for because you may get it.” Several colloquial euphemisms (e.g., tarnation, consarn you, goldurn, dad-blast) are used, but the biggest thing that some people may object to is the obvious references to “magic.” One reviewer noted, “There is an eerie side to the book, but fortunately it remains subdued.” There is nothing overtly scary or frightening, but while the occult connection may be subdued, it is definitely there. If one doesn’t mind this, or is willing to overlook it, the book has both entertaining humor and some instructive moral lessons.