The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain: Book Review

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Cover of The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain

4 Stars

When The Wish Giver comes to the Coven Tree church social, four townspeople exchange 50 cents each for one wish. They can’t even begin to dream how their wishes will affect their lives.

I remember loving this book when I was in about fifth grade. I couldn’t remember a thing about the story but I remember how much I loved this book.

It held up well! As a young reader, I doubt that I noticed that the story is a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for, I just liked the fanciful way that the wishes turned out. Polly wishes that people would like her and smile when they see her. Rowena wishes that a handsome traveling salesman would put down roots in their town. Adam wishes for water all over his parents’ farm. They get what they wish for, all right!

This was a quick, easy read for me and I’m pretty sure I smiled all the way through, reliving the magic I felt as a young reader. The illustrations by Andrew Glass are great too. There’s one picture of the traveling salesman in particular that still sends a chill down my spine!

I wholehearted recommend this for younger readers. It’s a fun story that would be a delight to read aloud with a child.

Banned/Challenged: The Wish Giver shows up in the 99th spot in the top 100 most-frequently banned/challenged books from 1990-1999. I can’t find a reason why, so I’m going to take a stab at it. Read the second paragraph of the book:

“Witches have abounded in this part of New England since colonial days, when Cotton Mather held his witch trials in Salem to be rid of them. The very name of our village comes from the huge, twisted tree down at the crossroads where groups of witches–covens, they’re called–used to meet. Imps and fiends and all the rest of Satan’s spawn have appeared here from time to time, taking their pleasure from plaguing and frightening us poor mortals. Some folks even tell of seeing the Devil himself, walking about and looking for souls to claim when the mists hang low on the mountains.”

Oh, my. Satan and witches mentioned outright in a children’s book. “Let’s protect the innocent children from all evil and remove this Devil’s book from the shelves!” I imagine the cry rising up.

If you bother to read past the first page, you’ll find that the book is pretty clear that dealings with the Devil never work out well. *sigh* Reading. Sometimes it feels like a dying art.

Read an excerpt.

Buy The Wish Giver at

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of the American Library Association.

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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1 Comment

  1. I work in an elementary library, and this book is sitting on the shelf right now – I had no idea that it was on the banned books list! People are so crazy sometimes – if you don't like something, don't read it. I recently had one of our students return a book they had just checked out the day before – The book was Scooby Doo and the Witch Doctor. The student's parents made him return it and check out a different one. They didn't agree with the book, but at least they didn't make a big deal out of it!

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