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Kitchen Table Reviews: Wishworks, Inc.

Max is handling his parents' divorce, his new home and school, and a big bully named Nick the only way he knows how: by running away.

By Mir Kamin | August 14 , 2009
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<i>Wishworks, Inc.</i> by Stephanie S. Tolan
Wishworks, Inc. by Stephanie S. Tolan

Max has a new home and a new school thanks to his parents’ divorce. On the up side, he no longer has to endure his father berating him for daydreaming—or, as Max thinks of it, his Adventure Time. On the down side, he can’t seem to make any friends, and the classroom bully and his henchmen always seem to be after him.

It’s not exactly the most upbeat beginning to a story that one could imagine, but as it turns out, what Max can imagine has real ramifications on his real life, and what starts out as a sad story turns into a delightful tale of making your own happiness, even if you’re just a kid.

Me: I absolutely loved this one. I thought it had it all—action, adventure, suspense, a great story. What did you think?

Son: I loved it. It was a great story, and had dogs and fantasy, two of my favorite things!

Daughter: I think maybe I’m a little too old for it, but I guess it was okay. I prefer stuff a little more believable, though. This required a lot of… um… what’s that called?

Me: Suspension of disbelief?

Daughter: Yeah, that. It was a bit too much fantasy for me. Perfect for kids up to about 10 or so who like that sort of thing, though.

Me: What did you think about the idea of Max being able to imagine a place where he could make real wishes?

Son: That was awesome! And I love how he always imagined exactly the right amount of money into his pocket, too.

Daughter: I don’t know why he didn’t just wish for exactly the dog he wanted.

Me: Well that’s sort of the point, right? That if you get a wish, you need to consider it carefully?

Son: He should’ve wished for more wishes!

Daughter: That’s cheating, everyone knows that.

Me: Do you guys know the old song, “You can’t always get what you want?”

Both: No.

[A moment of silence, please, to mourn the shortcomings of “kids today.”]

Me: The chorus says, “You can't always get what you want / But if you try sometimes well you just might find / You get what you need.” This book totally reminded me of that song.

Daughter: I see. You’re saying Max got what he needed, even though he thought that wasn’t what he wanted?

Me: Yeah, I think so.

Son: But he did get what he wanted, kind of, at the end.

Me: Exactly!

Life is unpredictable, even when your wishes come true. I think Tolan shows us that that’s what makes it so much fun.

Pros: Max is a believable Everykid. The illustrations serve to enhance the story and the reality of both Max’s imagination and real life. Great lesson about life being sweet even when it’s unpredictable.

Cons: Bullies and feeling powerless against them. Stinky dog breath. Endless discussions about whether or not wishing for more wishes is cheating.

Wishworks, Inc. gets four thumbs up from our kitchen table, because my son says his imaginary dog voted, too. (I guess if he’s imaginary, he can have thumbs.)

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