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Summary: Now 13 years, 3 months and 3 days old, Natasha Blok can celebrate her Wishing Day. The night where a young teen goes to the willow tree on top of Willow Hill to make 3 wishes; an impossible wish, a wish she could make come true, and her deepest, most secret wish. It was not what Natasha expected, and it was magical. But would the magic last? Natasha wished that her mother Klara was alive. Her mother's sisters Elana and Vera had taken the family in, but Natasha was tired of being "that family." The one people felt sorry for and speculated about. Not long after her Wishing Day, Natasha ran into the Bird Lady, the town eccentric that had wandered town as long as anyone could remember. She knew information about Klara, and she would show up at the oddest places. Was the Bird Lady the gatekeeper of magic and wishes? Fantasy and realistic fiction collide in this coming-of-age story for a young girl. This is a High Interest / Low Readability option.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 10 and Up; read yourself: 12 and Up
Interest Level: 11 and Up
Reading Level: 4.5
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: This is a beautiful, poignant story. There is plenty of magic, but not the Harry Potter kind. Young readers (especially those with sisters) will see themselves in Natasha. Although the search for her mom weighs on her heart, she is a well-developed character. Her relationships, dilemmas, and worries with peers (best friends and boys), as well as family dynamics are real. Even as there are fantastical elements that come into play. One of the things that truly stood out for me was Natasha's self awareness. She was honest with herself, for example, about keeping things from her BFF. She then took the next step - stretching herself to push through the uncomfortable. This is a book that I would not only recommend, but will probably read again.
Pros: Beautiful storytelling, a strong main character, and a little magic combine in a story that will have readers looking for magic all around them.
Cons: None. It seems nit-picky, but the father's grief seems presented more melodramatically than the teen protagonists. There are inconsistencies with regard to his level of involvement in caring for, loving, or participating in the family.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is an excellent book to have on your personal shelves and also give as a gift to a newly-minted teen girl.
Educational Themes: Wishing Day has both broad and personal themes. Culturally oriented topics include maintaining traditions, beliefs in magic, and social stigma (homelessness, mental health). More individualistic topics include family dynamics, grief and loss, dreams, friendship, and more typical teen issues such as middle school life, crushes, and self awareness. This would be an exceptional choice for a teen girls book club, as well as mother daughter book clubs. Not just in reflecting the story presented, but in sharing their own personal stories and family traditions, too.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - fantasy, realistic fiction, family, coming of age, middle grade series
Date(s) Reviewed: August 2016
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.