The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner is a middle grade novel about Irish dancing, friendships and most importantly a sibling dealing with her older sister’s drug addiction.
Blurb: Charlie feels like she’s always coming in last. From her Mom’s new job to her sister’s life away at college, everything else always seems to be more important than Charlie’s upcoming dance competition or science project. Unsure of how to get her family’s attention, Charlie comes across the surprise of her life one day while ice-fishing . . . in the form of a floppy, scaly fish offering to grant her a wish in exchange for its freedom. Charlie can’t believe her luck until she realizes that this fish has a funny way of granting wishes, despite her best intentions. But when her family faces a challenge bigger than any they’ve ever experienced, Charlie wonders if some things might be too important to risk on a wish.
The book popped onto my radar from a Twitter post of author, Kate Messner’s blog titled, “Remember Who We Serve: Some Thoughts on Book Selection and Omission.”
In the blog post, Kate talks about how her book, The Seventh Wish, was removed from a k-5 library and why:
As a huge super fan of yours I did want to offer a new perspective of The Seventh Wish. It was on my book order list before I even read what it was about. However, after reading the description, I too sadly had to remove it.
She says I’m one of the favorite authors in her K-5 library. They have all of my other books, and they fly off the shelves. But this one won’t be added to the collection. She continued:
It’s not that I don’t think heroin addiction is extremely important. Our community has faced its share of heartbreaking stories in regards to drug abuse but fourth and fifth graders are still so innocent to the sad drug world. Even two years from now when they’re in sixth grade this book will be a wonderful and important read but as a mother of a fourth grader, I would never give him a book about heroin because he doesn’t even know what that is. I just don’t think that at 10 years old he needs to worry about that on top of all of the other things he already worries about… For now, I just need the 10 and 11-year-olds biggest worry to be about friendships, summer camps, and maybe their first pimple or two.
This breaks my heart. As a writer. As an educator. As a parent. As someone who loves kids. It breaks my heart because I know this feeling so well. Those are all the things I want 10 and 11 year olds to worry about, too. But I don’t get to choose what those kids’ lives are like. None of us do.
We don’t serve only our own children. We don’t serve the children of 1950. We don’t serve the children of some imaginary land where they are protected from the headlines. We serve real children in the real world. A world where nine-year-olds are learning how to administer Naloxone in the hopes that they’ll be able to save a family member from dying of an overdose. And whether you teach in a poor inner city school or a wealthy suburb, that world includes families that are shattered by opioid addiction right now. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. It just makes those kids feel more alone.
When we choose books for school and classroom libraries, we need to remember who we serve. We serve the kids. All of them. Even the kids whose lives are not what we might want childhood to look like. Especially those kids.
I was one of “those” kids. My dad was an alcoholic. I read the problem issue books of the 1980’s in order to try and figure out what was going on in my family. Like, Charlie in The Seventh Wish, I was not going to talk about it with my friends. I needed those books about drug and alcohol addiction in order to feel that I wasn’t alone in my family’s problems.
But, addiction today is much bigger than alcohol. Addiction today is heroine and prescription drugs. And to censor books with these topics as too much for “children” does a disservice to the child who is living with this addiction in their family.
The Seventh Wish is an important story for all kids, but especially those kids who are dealing with a family member in addiction.Especially them.
Main character, Charlie’s feelings of trying to understand why her sister lies to her, how it’s not just as simple as signing a DARE card to stay off drugs, and the feelings of having all the attention on her sister are very real to those who love an addicted family member.
The Serenity Prayer is quoted often in the story and one poignant moment occurs when Charlie is told, “There’s nothing you can do when someone you love is an addict. So you just…” She shrugs. “You keep living and do other stuff.”
And at the end, Charlie understands this and says about her Irish dancing,
“And I’m dancing. Dancing and stomping and kicking and the loudness of these fast, stomping shoes fills the room. It fills me, until I’m out of breath but bursting with energy because even when I’m scared and worried about Abby, this…this is something I can do. I can fill myself with the energy of this dance, the sound of music and the stomps and clicks, the feeling of flying over the floor with Dasha beside me.”
And this is the hope of what all good children’s stories do–they take a situation and empower that child character to come through to the other side with new wisdom, thus providing hope for all who read.
Charlie can’t do anything to change her sister’s addiction, but she can express all her emotion, all her energy in what she loves–her Irish Dance.
So many of my own stories deal with addiction–from my young adult novel, WEAVING MAGIC, which deals with Christopher’s sobriety and Shantel’s addiction to Christopher, to my sweet contemporary romance, SWEETHEART COTTAGE in which heroine Rylee must confront her Dad’s gambling addiction to my upcoming SWEETHEART SUMMER, which deals with hero, Sawyer’s, alcohol addiction and recovery. And of course, my memoir, KIDS IN ORANGE, which tells the story of working with the kids in juvenile detention–so many of them brought to detention by their addictions and my own story of watching my Dad die of alcoholism. (This story is currently under consideration with a publisher)
And this is perhaps the biggest reason why I write. I write for the child in me who struggled to figure out what was wrong with her family. I write for the adult whose sibling continues to struggle with addiction. And I write for the adult who loves those men who still struggle with addictions and yet so desperately still hopes for that happily ever after.
I can’t change the addicts in my life. I can’t give them sobriety. But I can write. I can write the stories which tell of how my characters–both addicts and family members who learn how to pour their energy into their own lives.
We need these books like SEVENTH WISH. The nature of addiction is it’s clouded in secrecy and lies. We need these books which tell kids they are not alone and that there is hope.