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Book Review | Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer

From the publisher: Years ago, a reclusive mega-bestselling children’s author quit writing under mysterious circumstances. Suddenly he resurfaces with a brand-new book and a one-of-a-kind competition, offering a prize that will change the winner’s life in this absorbing and whimsical novel. Be careful what you wish for. . . you might just get it.

This lovely little novel will appeal to any reader who wanted to escape into a children’s book. If you wanted to attend Hogwarts, or visit Narnia, or live in a boxcar, or travel space and time with Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, you might want to check out The Wishing Game.

At its heart, this book is the story of a foster kid and the teacher’s aide who wants to adopt him. Christopher found his parents dead of an overdose; Lucy doesn’t even qualify to foster him, much less adopt him. As an unhappy child, Lucy ran away to the reclusive island home of Jack Masterson, author of the entrancing Clock Island series. She was not alone in wanting to live on his island; his 60-book series appealed to many children. The books featured unhappy children who wished for something and were willing to do the work to make their wishes come true.

Now an adult, Lucy is one of four lucky contestants invited to Jack’s home. After a long barren stretch, he has written one last novel. The four contestants have a chance to win the sole copy and do whatever they want with it. Each of the four contestants has a wish they hope they can fulfill by winning the contest. Also on the island is Hugo, the handsome artist for the series book covers.

Jack, middle-aged, single, childless, and gay, has his own regrets as he realizes that “the amount of sand in the top of my hourglass is far less than the sand in the bottom” (chapter 15 of the advance reader copy). He is mysterious and a bit mad. He has had tragedies in his life, and he has always felt the deepest connection to the children most in love with his books.

This story moved me, touched me, made me laugh, made me cry. Ultimately it is an uplifting read and a story of found families. It reminded me of the best parts of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. In the right hands it will make a terrific movie. I’m definitely putting it on my list to read with the library’s book club after it comes out.

 I read an advance reader copy of The Wishing Game from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be released on May 30 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

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