I've had this book on my TBR list for a while, and I'm glad I finally got the chance to read it. I enjoyed the audio version very much, especially because of the light southern American accent the reader gives the characters. Charlie is a rambunctious young girl who is navigating the challenges that come with having parents who are not currently fit to care for her. Fast-paced and heartwarming, this is a lovely story to share with middle grade readers. Please see my full review below!
Charlie Reese is scrappy, just like her daddy; she lets her feelings boil to the surface without stopping to think about what she will do or say, and that often gets her into trouble. When her father is placed in jail and her mother is struggling to remain on her own two feet, Charlie is sent to live with an aunt and uncle she has never met in a town that is markedly different from where she grew up. Every day, Charlie searches for opportunities to make a wish—the same one she has been making for years—with the persistent hope that it will come true. Despite her initial reluctance to accept her new surroundings, Charlie is slowly drawn out of her protective shell and finds that her wish may be granted in ways she did not expect.
This middle grade coming of age story focuses on Charlie and her struggle to come to terms with her current reality. Desperately clinging to the potential life she could have had with her birth parents, she becomes a thread that is pulled so tightly that it threatens to snap with any added pressure. No matter how people behave toward her, Charlie finds reasons to lash out and hurt others as an expression of her own internal pain. It is fulfilling to observe Charlie's transformation as she begins to come into her own and realize that she is just as deserving of affection as anyone else.
Succinct and well-designed, this story flows easily from beginning to end and is especially suited to younger middle grade readers. Whether or not readers have experienced Charlie's specific feelings, they will recognize and empathize with Charlie’s innate desire to be loved and accepted for who she is. Themes of finding family outside of a blood connection—from friends to animals and beyond—permeate the narrative and lead to a satisfying conclusion. Likewise, the repetitive mention of Charlie's wish without going into detail about what it is will keep readers engaged until the final page is turned.
Heartwarming and poignant, this is an important story for middle grade readers. Because it investigates a character whose challenges initially define her, readers will observe first-hand how Charlie manages to overcome the obstacles in her way and settle into a life that is a best fit for her. Strong themes of friendship and learning from one’s mistakes are evident throughout the novel, and the overall approach makes it an excellent selection for classroom reading. This lovely tale is a positive addition to library collections for middle grade readers.
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