This is a book that I might have overlooked, had it not been for Facebook. You see, I was scrolling through my feed recently and happened across a story about an author’s Skype visit that fell through. On January 17th, Kate Messner posted:
This afternoon, I had to cancel a Skype visit about THE SEVENTH WISH because the teacher doesn’t want to mention the fact that the main character’s older sister is fighting opioid addiction. She told me that in her class read-aloud, she’s been ‘skipping’ the parts of the story that deal with that, so while the students are aware that there’s a drug issue, most of them think it’s probably marijuana. I told her I wasn’t comfortable with misleading kids in my presentation and suggested that she share the author’s note, which offers a factual and kid-friendly explanation of what opioid drugs are, how they affect the brain, and why they have such a devastating effect on families like Charlie’s.
She opted to cancel the visit instead. She’s never known anyone with a drug issue and believes she’s doing what’s right for her students. She was very kind in her emails, but I have to admit, I’m crushed. I can’t tell you how sad this makes me, mostly for the kids in that class who might already be living in a situation like Charlie’s.
If you have the opportunity to share THE SEVENTH WISH by recommending to a teacher or for a state list or really anywhere, I’d truly appreciate that. I so wish more kids who need this story could have access to it.
I was heartbroken to see that those kids were misled, despite the fact that their teacher had good intentions. Research shows that it’s best for adults to have an open and ongoing conversation about topics like drug abuse starting at an early age, rather than “having the talk” in adolescence. Parents and caregivers should look for spontaneous/everyday situations and teachable moments to start open and honest conversations. In this story, we get a nice combination of of fantasy (Charlie finds a magical wishing fish), Irish culture (Charlie is very involved in Irish Dancing), and some important teachable moments (Charlie’s older sister has been using heroin). I appreciated the fact that this story didn’t only focus on the drug problem but rather incorporated the problem into how it affected the rest of Charlie’s life, so that it felt much more genuine. There were times when you could sort of forget what Charlie’s sister was going through, and I think that is very true to how it might be for a person whose family member is battling addiction. It seems to take over sometimes, but there are moments when you can actually get caught up in the joy and madness of everyday life.
In good news, Kate posted yesterday:
I’m so looking forward to my school visit today. It’s in Brandon, Vermont, where THE SEVENTH WISH was chosen by the entire school district (Rutland Northeast) as a community read for 5th and 6th grade students, in collaboration with Brandon Cares, a local organization responding to the region’s opioid crisis.
This book is a perfect “teachable moment,” and I applaud the Rutland Northeast School District for choosing it as their community read! Considering the fact that there is a major opioid epidemic all around our country, and not just in Vermont, I think it is important that this book get into the hands of as many people as possible. Please do your part by reading this book and then passing it along to parents, teachers, and middle grade readers. I don’t often buy books, since I am a librarian and can’t really afford my reading habit, but I just ordered a copy of this book to add to my personal library so that I can share it with my own children and pass it around to other young people who might benefit (with their parents’ permission, of course).