Wishing Day

336p. HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. May 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062342065.
Gr 4–6—Thirteen-year-old Natasha is a responsible girl. The eldest in a family of girls, she is the one who has tried to keep things going since her mom left several years earlier. After moving in with their aunts, the girls kept going as well as could be expected. But now it is Natasha's Wishing Day—the third Wednesday after her 13th birthday. It's a town tradition for the girls to trudge up to the old willow tree on the hill, duck the canopy, and make three wishes. This is no fairy tale land; this is the real world. But unlike her sister Darya or her best friend, Molly, Natasha wants to believe in the magic—the magic that might make her life a little easier. After she makes her wishes, some things do seem to change, but are they because of the tree? Beyond a family or friendship story, issues of mental illness, homelessness, and what it means to be a girl are explored without tipping into the realm of overt message. Natasha's growing pains are real, and while the circumstances of her family make them more acute, the magical realism within the pages adds a lambent quality to the narrative.
VERDICT This unique coming-of-age story with an ardent protagonist belongs in all middle grade collections.

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