The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain is a classic novel written in 1983. It is set in the fictional town of Coven Tree in New England, which has seen magic many times before, but nothing like this! Three children, Polly, Rowena, and Adam, along with local shop owner Stew Meat, encounter the mysterious and sharp eyed Thaddeus Blinn at the church fair. He is offering to grant whatever wish they desire for a mere 50 cents. What follows is the time old lesson about being careful what you wish for!
The Wish Giver is a magical tale of the unintended consequences of wishing. Stewart Meade, or Stew Meat as he's called, narrates the story. He owns a shop and is enjoying the day at the church fair along with local children Polly Kemp, Rowena Jervis, and Adam Fiske. All four find the colorful tent of Thaddeus Blinn, a mysterious man who has put a sign out front promising to grant wishes for only 50 cents. Their curiosity gets the better of them and the foursome go inside. Mr. Blinn gives each of them a white card with a red dot on it. Skeptical, they can't believe that a simple card will grant them whatever their hearts desire. Feeling duped, they leave with their cards but doubting Mr. Blinn's fantastical story. Blinn then moves on to another town, never to be seen again.
Little Polly Kemp has always had trouble keeping her temper. She seems to say whatever she is thinking at the moment, no matter how rude it might be. Polly also longs to be friends with the wealthy and posh Agatha who lives in a fancy house in town and always has the finest dresses. After a day of feeling slighted and friendless, Polly makes a wish that Agatha will invite her to her house. The power of the wish causes something quite unexpected. Polly begins to croak like a frog whenever she complains or insults someone! All her words turn to loud "jug-a-rums" instead! The affliction lasts for quite a while and always starts up again if she utters another harsh word. The only way for Polly to stop croaking is to speak kindly and politely to others.
One day, Polly is indeed invited to Agatha's like she requested. However, the only reason for the invitation is so Agatha can tease her. The snobby and mean-spirited Agatha is intent on hearing Polly croak so that she and her friend Eunice can have a laugh. When Polly responds to Agatha's goading with only politeness, she is able to maintain her composure and keep from croaking. Throughout their conversation, Polly comes to realize that Agatha's snobbery is not something to aspire to! Polly finally understands that by being kind she can make true friends. Now, she just has to keep her temper at all times to avoid croaking!
Rowena has long had a crush on the fast talking traveling salesman Henry Piper. Her wish is that rather than only staying in town a couple of days out of the year, he would grow roots there and stay forever so she and Henry could one day be married. This wish has a very surprising twist when Henry starts to grow actual roots and turns into a tree! While Rowena struggles in vain to free him, Henry's true nature is revealed. He is nasty towards Rowena, and admits that he has lied about the places he's been. In truth, Henry was only nice to Rowena in order to get a sale from her father! Rowena's friend Sam could have told her this. He has admired Rowena from afar for years and knew that Henry was nothing but a con man. But, now that con man is a tree rooted in Rowena's yard!
Adam Fiske has to haul huge barrels of water from the creek each and every day for his family's farm, which has the driest land of anywhere in the county. His father even asked a relative who was an expert at finding water to work his magic to no avail. The farm is completely parched with no water underground at all. After a long day of hauling water, Adam remembered his wishing card and wished for more than enough water for his farm. He realized his mistake when water began spurting from the ground all over the place until the entire farm was flooded for days and days and it turned into a lake!
In the end, the three wishers rushed to Stew Meat, the only one left with a wishing card. They each begged him to use his one wish to save them from the unfortunate consequences of their ill conceived wishes. Rather than fixing only one person's circumstance, clever Stew wished that all of their wishes would be undone without any negative side effects. The children were thrilled to have everything back to normal and learned to be appreciative of what they have!
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