October 13, 2016

The Wish Tree

by Kyo Maclear
Illustrated by Chris Turnham
Chronicle Books
40 pp.
Ages 3-5
September 2016

Kids make wishes on shooting stars, on birthday candles, on wish bones and even eyelashes but little Charles is convinced he’s going to find a wish tree, regardless of what his older brother and sister say.  So, dressed warmly for the winter cold and accompanied by his supportive Boggan (a toboggan), Charles sets out in search of this amazing tree.

The two friends make their way through snow-covered fields, up and down hills,  across ice and into a forest, with Boggan singing “Whishhhhh” along the way.  In their search they help a squirrel get his collection of hazelnuts home, transport a load of birch wood for a beaver, assist a fox in getting her berries to her burrow, carry carrots for some hares and apples for a deer, twigs for birds and more.  Not surprising that time passes quickly and little Charles and Boggan become tired, moving ever more slowly until the boy lays down upon the toboggan.  What happens as Charles sleeps is the miracle that comes of helping others and the discovery of the wish tree is but a fraction of the wonder that comes about that evening for Charles and Boggan.

From The Wish Tree 
by Kyo Maclear, illus. by Chris Turnham
Charles’s search for a wish tree seems more a quest for the hope of opportunity.  Though he and Boggan may become tired in their pursuit of that grail, it’s clear that only by making the wishes of others come true that they are able to realize their dream of locating the wish tree.  Charles does leave a wish on the wish tree (little ones can create their own wish tree upon which they post wishes using a downloadable activity from Chronicle Books at http://www.chroniclebooks.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Make-a-Wish-Tree-Activity-Kit.pdf) and, though the reader never sees what he has written, the illustrations indicate a fulfilled little boy making his way home at the end of the night.

From The Wish Tree 
by Kyo Maclear, illus. by Chris Turnham
Kyo Maclear’s story is very simple: a quest for a wish tree.  But she ties up that quest with doing for others, promoting generosity of spirit and effort as the means for personal fulfillment.  It’s a big message in a simple story but an important one for all dreamers and wishers to recognize.  That simplicity is emulated in American Chris Turnham’s illustrations, demonstrating that empowerment does not just come to the bold and brash but the quiet and determined as well.  I’m glad that Charles found his wish tree as he did; any other way would have been too contrived and unsatisfying.  And Kyo Maclear does not do contrived or unsatisfying.  As with her earlier books, including my very favourite Virginia Wolf (Kids Can Press, 2012), Kyo Maclear fulfills readers' own wishes by eloquently wrapping up big concepts in sweet stories that always charm us with their worthwhile life lessons.

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