Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin – Review by Irene Kistler
“The words rang forever, for a thousand heartbeats, carried by the wind. The valley was helping. My voice became as big as the sky.” –Nikki Loftin’s WISH GIRL
From the first page where Peter is wrapped up by a rattlesnake, Nikki Loftin’s WISH GIRL grabs its reader and doesn’t let go. In her third middle grade novel, Nikki paints a beautiful picture of the Texas Hill Country and the magic which resides within. Viewed through the eyes of Peter and Annie, the hill country setting becomes another character, filled with magic and, quite possibly, the power to heal.
In the story of WISH GIRL, Annie is once again battling cancer when she meets Peter, a boy who trusts the silence of nature more than his family. They meet by a natural pool teeming with hill country life. Peter is running from the world, while Annie is running toward it. They are both misunderstood by their families and rely on one another to find the peace of acceptance.
In Peter’s story, we learn that the noise of the world pushes Peter away from his family. His past is littered with the heartbreak of bullying from his peers, which brings disappointment to his father’s eyes. He will never be the tough kid his father wants–he can only ever be Peter.
Where he can’t find acceptance from his family, he finds it in Annie. Annie is not only escaping her cancer, but the treatment plan her doctors have prescribed. There are dangerous side effects and Annie worries that she will be forever changed. Which is worse–vanishing into your own mind, or death? Annie isn’t sure. Before the treatment begins, Annie gets a final wish to attend an art camp, which is actually a crafting camp. Longing for real art, Annie leaves the confines of the camp each day and constructs art with the tools of nature. Creating together, she teaches Peter how to view the Hill Country as an art form.
With help from the magical valley, Peter and Annie find a way to tell their story on their terms. Along the way, they are helped by a frizzy-haired, go-kart driving Colonel’s wife who will have kids laughing and wishing she were their neighbor, too!
WISH GIRL is another powerful entry into the genre of magical realism. When you turn its final page, you will breathe a satisfied sigh, sounding very much like the magical Hill Country winds.
Irene Kistler is a middle school librarian in San Antonio, Texas. She is a 2015 Finalist for Texas Teacher of the Year. One of her greatest joys is reading her library’s collection and recommending great books to kids. She loves to write and hopes to one day publish a picture book or middle grade novel of her own. When she’s not reading or writing, you can find her cooking a nice dinner for her husband and friends, or browsing the aisles of William Sonoma. Her specialties are lasagna and buckeye candies. Tweet her @IreneKistler and chat about books with her on Goodreads.
Nikki Loftin is an Austin area author. Her book The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy (2012) is a modern day retelling of “Hansel and Gretel” and is on the 2015 Oklahoma Library Association’s Sequoyah Award Master List. Her second book, Nightingale’s Nest, was a 2014 Must Read book as recommended by GirlsLife.com.