The meaning of The Wish Giver is easy to comprehend: People need to be careful of what they desire, for it might come true. Readers also learn another lesson: that what one wishes for is not always what one wants or what is best. Each young person learns these lessons as the wishes come true.
Polly’s wish to be liked and to be invited to Agatha’s house does come true, but with a heavy price. She realizes that she is doomed to a life of saying nice things unless she wants to sound like a frog. When Polly is invited to Agatha’s house, she also discovers that Agatha’s idea of fun is dull compared to the good times that she has in the woods with her two friends. Polly finally realizes that instead of wasting her time trying to be friends with Agatha, she could be spending her time making friends with others who would enjoy the same things that she does. Polly ultimately decides that she needs the guidance of someone older and wiser and sets out for Coven Tree.
Rowena’s wish for Henry Piper to put down roots in Coven Tree takes on a bizarre aspect as he slowly turns into a tree. As Rowena tries to comfort him, she realizes that Henry has been leading her along and that his pleasantness and flirtatiousness were a thin veneer for his real self—a complainer and a liar. During her efforts to make Henry comfortable as he transforms into a tree, Rowena realizes that Sam, the young man who helps on her father’s farm, has stood beside her all the way. Sam did not blame her when she confided in him about her wish. He only increased his efforts to help her, and it was he who discovered Henry’s lies about being a world traveler. Sam also serves...
(The entire section is 686 words.)
Bill Brittain’s Coven Tree books blend comedy and horror as readers learn moral lessons. He loosely based the village and its inhabitants on his acquaintances in his childhood home of Spenceport, New York. The first book in this series, Devil’s Donkey (1981), received mention as an American Library Association’s Notable Children’s Book and was inspired by one of his eighth-grade students. According to Brittain, the plotting for the second book in the series, The Wish Giver, proved to be the most difficult that he had done. The problem centered on all three sections in the book taking part over four days in a small village in which the characters’ paths would cross occasionally. His perseverance paid off, as The Wish Giver received praise as a Newbery Honor Book. After this book, he returned to the village of Coven Tree for Dr. Dredd’s Wagon of Wonders (1987) and Professor Popkin’s Prodigious Polish: A Tale of Coven Tree (1991). Brittain desires not to teach enduring lessons but to offer his readers a good story. He accomplishes this goal with a blend of fantasy, horror, and humor.