Review of A Comb of Wishes

A Comb of Wishes
by Lisa Stringfellow
Intermediate, Middle School    Quill Tree/HarperCollins    272 pp.    g
2/22    978-0-06-304343-5    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-304345-9    $8.99

After her mother dies in a tragic accident, twelve-year-old Kela Boxhill becomes a shell of her former self. She pushes away her father, her best friend, and her vibrant Caribbean community of St. Rita. She neglects her artistic ambitions because her creative activities remind her of the storyteller mother she’s lost. One day, while searching for sea glass on the beach, Kela finds a magical comb belonging to the mermaid Ophidia. Desperate to retrieve the comb because its magical power keeps her young, Ophidia offers Kela a wish. But magic always comes at a price. Kela’s wish to bring her mother back has unexpected consequences, and well-meaning adults prevent her from immediately returning the comb as promised, which incites the mermaid’s wrath. As the island faces potential devastation from a hurricane caused by Ophidia’s rage, Kela must figure out how to appease the vengeful mermaid while also protecting her loved ones, her community, and herself. The story is imbued with magic, but Stringfellow’s powerful writing makes the fantastical feel like reality. Through narrative perspectives centering both Kela and Ophidia, the author recalls the call-and-response structure prevalent in Black storytelling traditions. Fans of Baptiste’s The Jumbies and Rhodes’s Bayou Magic will enjoy spending time with Kela as she navigates a journey filled with grief, love, loss, and discovery.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

S. R. Toliver

S. R. Toliver is an assistant professor of literacy and secondary humanities at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her public and academic scholarship can be found on her website Follow her on Twitter @SR_Toliver.

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