Gr 1–3—Irene's papa has a magic touch, and he can make just about anything grow ("Papa always says, 'If a star can grow inside an apple, anything is possible!'"; "'Seeds,' he says, 'are very full of possibilities.'"). His work keeps him quite busy, and the children wish he could spend more time at home playing with them. The man finds out just how far those possibilities can go when Irene accidentally serves him iced tea filled with the kids' secret stash of seeds. He undergoes a radical transformation, and although he is still loved and considered part of the family, his wife and children long for him to return to normal. As she did in Plantzilla (Harcourt, 2002), Nolen proves again her ability to weave nature and life cycles into fanciful stories that children and adults will enjoy. Although Irene's Wish is a bit text-heavy for some newly independent readers, the themes of family, devotion, and the power of wishing will resonate with many. Ford's illustrations, rendered in acrylics and oil, bring life to the action with deep texture and vivid detail. This book will be a perfect family read, tucking many children in for dreams of grand possibility.—Megan Egbert, Meridian Library District, ID
Luminous, saturated acrylics and oil illustrations create a warm, cozy story of a close-knit African American family who just need a priority reset. Lush green trees, brilliant blue skies with fluffy white clouds, and almost tangible textures throughout, especially when Papa is blooming, will captivate readers. A fanciful, cautionary tale that reminds children to be careful what they wish for.
A tale of wishes, family and magic of many kinds. Irene, a young brown-skinned African-American girl with billowing locks, makes a wish that changes everything, especially for Papa, a gifted farmer. Irene loves her father but regrets that he's so busy growing things that he rarely has time for her or other family members. After Irene "hope[s] and dream[s] and wishe[s] on all the stars that [sparkle] in the skies and on all the apples that ever dangled from any tree," and Papa drinks the seeds she has accidentally left in his iced tea, a transformation takes place that ultimately gives her what she wants…sort of. Unfortunately, daily access to Papa comes with a price. Like Nolen's Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm (illustrated by Mark Buehner, 1994), this mystical tale raises many questions for readers to ponder long after they close the book. For what, exactly, does Irene wish? How does she unwish it? Is Papa's transformation literal or metaphorical? Who in this family learns the most important lesson from the events that unfold? Ford's acrylic-and-oil illustrations bring readers into close contact with a demographic rarely portrayed in children's literature: a middle-class African-American farming family. The lively images make the magic real.With this book, Nolen and Ford broaden the African-American picture-book palette in ways that are both delightful and memorable. (Picture book. 3-7)