Review of Wishes

by Mượn Thị Văn; illus. by Victo Ngai
Primary    Orchard/Scholastic    40 pp.    g
5/21    978-1-338-30589-0    $18.99

A little girl living in an unsafe place watches her grandfather out the window. “The night wished it was quieter,” reads the text. With a page-turn: “The bag wished it was deeper,” as other family members swiftly pack food. Wishes made by the light, the clock, the path, the boat, the sea, and the sun follow, and it gradually becomes clear that the girl’s family is fleeing their home to undertake a perilous journey to a new place. The collaboration between text and illustration is impressive; Văn’s lyrical and poetic writing gently propels the story forward, while Ngai’s honest and detailed pictures depict the heartbreaking reality of separation and extend the tale beyond its words. The final wish, which is also the only wish made in the voice of the girl (“And I wished…I didn’t have to wish…anymore”), is slowly revealed through four double-page spreads that display the final moments of the family’s harrowing journey. The changing color palette throughout, including on the front and back endpapers, serves as a powerful, aesthetic representation of the changes that occur over the course of the story — from dark night to brightening sky, from danger to safety, from fear to hope, and most important of all, from the end of one journey to the beginning of another. Back matter includes author and artist notes and reveals the personal connection that Văn has with the story.

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Weileen Wang
You-Ling (Weileen) Wang loves to write, read, and illustrate. She attended Vanderbilt University, where she studied child development and fell in love with children's literature. She holds a master's degree in arts in education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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