Wishes Are Free
Diana Mercedes Howell
Published September 15, 2022
About Wishes Are Free
Friends are everywhere if you have a big heart and know where to look.
California, 1959. Spunky ten-year-old Rose O’Reilly feels abandoned when her best friend from birth moves two thousand miles away. Determined to find a new best friend, she turns to Grandpa, whose wife – his own best friend – has recently died. They hold chat cafes in the kitchen on Sundays and with Grandpa’s help, Rose discovers friends can be found in unexpected places, from a lost dog to a boy with cerebral palsy.
But there is still an achy hole in her heart. She asks Venus, the Evening Star, for a new best friend, for Grandpa to come to live with them, and for a dog of her own. She has nothing to lose because wishes are free.
Rose is a precocious ten-year-old navigating a new school year without her best friend. Adrift and unsure, she looks to her grandfather for advice and a listening ear. I liked that the story doesn’t revolve around her grandfather’s advice. He doesn’t solve any problems for her; he really just offers her more ideas to think about or a new way to look at something. It’s up to Rose what she does with his counsel.
I also enjoyed the relationship between Rose and her brother, Jeremy. They bicker but share some tender moments, too. Rose also explores a new friendship with Anthony, a boy with Cerebral Palsy who owns a dog she likes. I wish Anthony had been included in scenes other than those in his house. Restricting Rose’s time with him to his own house made it seem like he was shut in or unwelcome in
other parts of her life.
In a couple of scenes, Rose confronts a neighborhood bully, and some of the language used to describe him is a little bit off-putting. He seems to be the only plus-sized character in the book and is always shown eating something as well as being mean to her. It came off as a negative stereotype to me, though
it was probably unconsciously done.
In one part, Rose gets in trouble at school, and her dad feels really disappointed. Her grandfather points out that her dad may feel the pressure of old stereotypes as an Irish man. Not long ago, the Irish faced discrimination and negative stereotypes. That understanding carries forward in the way Rose’s family empathizes with other immigrant workers in their community and values and appreciates them.
On the whole, I thought this was a sweet historical novel about friendship, family, and childhood discovery.
Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.
Rose’s friend has Cerebral Palsy.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Rose catches a boy and girl kissing in a movie theater.
Rose begins making wishes on Venus, the Evening Star. Rose attends a Catholic school. A boy makes a joke that if frogs got married, they couldn’t get divorced if they were Catholic.
Rose worries about a classmate whose father is rumored to have beaten him and his family.
Adults drink beer at a party.
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