WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR?
by Jane Godwin and Anna Walker, Penguin 2015
ages 2 – 8 / Christmas
This is a book overflowing with Christmas goodness. Everything that makes up a perfect, simple and nostalgic Christmas is there – a community party, a children’s Christmas play, wishes and hopes and fond memories, family and food, long summer nights.
Ruby is trying to decide on a Christmas wish to hang on the neighbourhood tree.
All the children have been writing wishes – they’re lovely and range from ‘I wish for a skateboard’ to ‘I wish a lost cat would come to our doorstep’ to ‘I wish my teacher would get married and we’d all go to the wedding’. The stuff of childhood dreams.
Ruby thinks through all the things she loves about Christmas as she ponders on her wish.
She thinks about her Dad coming home from work while it’s still light outside. And she thinks about baking. And about staying out till dark. All the things that Southern Hemisphere kids have loved for generations.
Finally, she knows what her wish will be:
‘I wish for Christmas to always feel like this.’
It’s nice to read something a little sentimental at Christmastime – but it’s rare to find a story that is sentimental without crossing over into schmaltzy. What do you Wish for? has struck the perfect balance.
There’s no manipulation of children going on here – no promise of a grand Christmas morning contingent on adult-approved behaviour. Instead, there’s a tangible sense of mutual respect and love and shared joy between the adults and children.
The pictures are dreamy; they feel a bit like looking into a memory, hazy with the goodness of long and simple days. Just delightful.
And there are plenty of small details to look for, like the dog chewing on the tinsel or the little boy collecting candy canes under the table - but still lots of openness in the pictures so they feel inviting and calm. This is a lovely story to read during the lead-up to Christmas while talking about Christmas wishes.