Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wishworks Inc.

Horn Book (September/October, 2009)
Third-grader Max is having a tough time. New in school and the victim of bullies, he retreats into an imaginary world, where a big handsome dog, King, protects him and where dragons and other beasts fight his battles. Real life is the problem. Real life is living in a new, smaller place with his mother and younger sister Polly. Real life is the divorce and a father who wants Max to be something he is not: a "regular kid" with lots of friends. Max has scant interest in television or school or sports or video games, but he longs for a dog of his own -- a dog like King. One day, when Max imagines a shop called Wishworks, a place where wishes come true, his life takes a surprising turn. Though the strange old shopkeeper warns him to wish carefully, Max's wish isn't specific enough, and what appears is not a stand-in for King but a "horrible little rat-tailed dog." Max's relationship with his sister and mother as they adjust to the divorce is touching, painful, and very believable. Readers will be relieved when Max finally makes the right wish and begins to live in the real world, with his family, the new dog...and a new friend. Tolan creates a world rich with complex secondary characters, and Bates's soft, realistic illustrations tie the story together and make it accessible to new readers and experienced readers alike.

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