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The Wish Stealers
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The Wish Stealers

4.4 71
by Tracy Trivas

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When a sinister old woman leaves Griffin Penshine a box of twelve shiny pennies, she sets in motion a desperate quest—because the old woman was a wish stealer, and each penny represents a wish she stole from a wishing fountain decades earlier. Somehow, Griffin has to make things right, or the opposite of her own wishes will come true—and it could


When a sinister old woman leaves Griffin Penshine a box of twelve shiny pennies, she sets in motion a desperate quest—because the old woman was a wish stealer, and each penny represents a wish she stole from a wishing fountain decades earlier. Somehow, Griffin has to make things right, or the opposite of her own wishes will come true—and it could literally be a matter of life and death. The Wish Stealers introduces a new voice in middle-grade fantasy, as bright and sparkling as Griffin’s pennies.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Wish-obsessed sixth-grader Griffin Penshine's life changes dramatically following a chance encounter with an evil old woman, who curses her with a gift of 11 Indian Head pennies. Each penny represents a wish stolen from a wishing fountain, and the curse says that the person holding the stolen wishes will never have a good wish come true (bad ones will, though). To break the curse, the wishes must be returned to those who originally made them, or to another person who has made the same wish. Trivas, in her children's debut, does a reasonable job of navigating the oddities of the curse along with Griffin's more typical concerns, like boys and being snubbed by a popular classmate (“She started to wish the party was ruined or that no one showed up or—NO, NO, NO, I DO NOT WISH THAT! Do I?”). Some details seem out of tune—Griffin idolizes Janis Joplin and Michelle Shocked, names unlikely to strike a chord with the Jonas Brothers generation. But readers will easily connect with other elements, such as Griffin's close relationship with her grandmother and her optimistic determination. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)
Kirkus Reviews
An upbeat Kansas girl finesses her own destiny when a bizarre curse turns her life into a nightmare. Sixth-grader Griffin Penshine "was always wishing" until a malevolent crone named Mariah tricks her into accepting 11 shiny pennies labeled with wishes stolen from a fountain decades earlier. Within an hour a horrible curse envelops Griffin. Witchy women cross her path. A tornado rips through town. As the new "wish stealer," Griffin's own good wishes never come true while her evil wishes flourish-unless she can reverse the curse by restoring the original wishes. Motivated to protect her family and friends, Griffin moves from victim to victor as she creatively transforms bad luck into good by sponsoring a successful "Pennies for the Planet" fundraiser. While Trivas's reliance on supernatural devices and extreme meteorological events feels phony, subplots involving Griffin and her middle-school friends and foes prove credible. Inspirational aphorisms closing each chapter, some credited ("Follow your bliss," from Joseph Campbell, for instance), reinforce the very pervasive wish theme. (Fantasy. 8-12)
From the Publisher
"Trivas composes a nifty little tale, in which the magic of wishes and curses believably coexists with the dramas of middle school. The supernatural elements are certainly entertaining, but the real star of the story is the charmingly eccentric Griffin and her ability to navigate the perils of the sixth grade’s social ladder while dealing with an unlucky enchantment."

- BULLETIN, March 2010

"The best thing about The Wish Stealers is the originality of its plot. Griffin’s dilemma is unique; readers will enjoy reading about her attempts to return the wishes while trying to navigate the trials of middle school. There is also a short inspirational quote at the end of every chapter—a nice touch."

- Sacramento Book Review/San Francisco Book Review, May 1, 2010

Children's Literature - Meredith Kiger
This fine story capitalizes on the current trend towards the occult in young peoples' literature. Griffin Penshine is about to begin her first day of sixth grade. On her way to a music lesson, her mother makes a quick stop at an antique store to pick up a model of the solar system. Griffin's mother is an astronomer. While there, Griffin is introduced to the store owner's great aunt, a strange woman who gives Griffin eleven Indian Head pennies. Griffin really did not like the vibes the pennies gave off but already had a habit of making special wishes just to see if they would come true, like wishing it would not rain so hard that worms came to the surface of the ground and got fried when it got hot and six other ridiculous wishes. Later, when Griffin examines the box with the pennies she finds there is a special slot for each penny and each one is labeled with a word. A letter addressed to Griffin from the lady who gave her the pennies tells of her life as a wish stealer and bestows on Griffin the job of wish stealer. Instructions and rules go along with the letter as well as a threat of bad vibes if she tries to throw the pennies away or does not follow the rules. The remainder of the story is a romp through a six grader's life including the usual jealousies, boyfriends, and school escapades intertwined with her efforts to make the best use of the magical pennies. Griffin is successful and the suspense along the way is interesting and believable. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—The day before her first day in middle school, Griffin Penshine is tricked into accepting a box of lucky pennies from a mysterious old woman. A note in the box explains that the coins are all wishes stolen from a fountain more than 70 years ago. Griffin is now unwillingly a Wish Stealer, and in order to avoid the fate that accompanies that title, she must return the pennies to the original owners or to someone who has a similar desire. Short chapters keep the story moving, and an inspirational quote or adage, often about wishes or dreams, follows each one. Unfortunately, Griffin learns that she must return the wishes from a too-convenient chapter in a book that practically falls into her lap. More successful are her experiences as she navigates slights by the school's popular crowd and organizes a fundraiser to collect money for saving rainforests. While the wish-stealing theme is better developed in Frances Hardinge's Well Witched (HarperCollins, 2007), Trivas's accessible novel encourages readers to be proactive in following their dreams and in helping others to fulfill their wishes.—Amanda Raklovits, Champaign Public Library, IL

Product Details

Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Wish Stealers 1

Griffin Penshine had three freckles under her left eye that sometimes looked like stars. This was a good thing, as Griffin was always wishing. She wished when a ladybug landed on a windowsill, she wished on dandelion dust, and she even wished on tumbling eyelashes. In fact, she often rescued the eyelash of a friend and reminded her to wish. But then again, Griffin always noticed the smallest of details. She could track her way out of a forest, spotted everything from worms to woodbeetles, and giggled at absurd words on menus like “jumbo shrimp.” Griffin also liked certain things a certain way. She loved peanut butter on brownies, hated wearing turtlenecks, and insisted her mom buy cool mint toothpaste.

On the last Sunday of a hot Kansas summer, a ladybug flew in through Griffin’s bedroom window and landed on her arm. Griffin smiled and opened her new blue-lined notebook and scribbled her next few wishes.

I wish all vegetables had cool names like bok choy, alfalfa, and parsnip.

I wish to become an amazing bass guitarist.

Griffin thought for a moment and then crossed off her first wish. She didn’t want to waste a wish on vegetables. As for being a great bass guitarist, she wished for that every chance she got. Too bad she hadn’t wished for protection. But how could she know that within one hour the most horrible curse would fling itself at her and coil through her long, beautiful shiny red hair?

“Griffin!” called her mom from downstairs. “We’re going to be late.” Griffin’s mother, an astronomer, loved to calculate the time it would take to reach Saturn, Neptune, the Andromeda galaxy, and even the center of town. She knew if they didn’t leave in five minutes they would not make their afternoon appointments. Dr. Penshine hated being late, and she loved to wear her huge collection of inspirational T-shirts that said things like SAVE THE EARTH. Only now that Dr. Penshine was pregnant, the words stretched over her huge bump and read save the ear.

Griffin giggled from the top of the stairs. “I like your shirt, Mom.”

Dr. Penshine looked down at her bulging tummy. “Ears need saving too!” she said, laughing.

Griffin grabbed her bass guitar, ran down the stairs, and slid into the car.

“Before I drop you off at your music lesson, I need to make a fifteen-minute stop at Mr. Schmidt’s shop,” said her mom. “He received a shipment of artifacts from Egypt—ancient clay scarab beetles—and an antique model of the solar system from an English castle. He’s saving them for me.”

“Okay,” said Griffin. She didn’t mind stopping. Mr. Schmidt, their neighbor, had the strangest objects at his store. Maybe she would find something for her pet turtle, Charlemagne’s, terrarium or a good luck charm for tomorrow—the first day of sixth grade at her new middle school—or some cool object for her Mysterium Collection Box that she hid under her bed.

Although it was only a shoe box with a rectangle of midnight blue felt lining the bottom, inside the box were two eagle feathers passed down by her great-grandfather before they became illegal to keep, half of a heart from her best-friend-forever necklace she shared with Libby Barrett, an old lace valentine her grandma Penshine had made as a girl, and three smooth stones.

Her grandma had given her the three lucky stones: a moonstone thought to have the power to grant wishes, a tigereye for courage, and a piece of purple amethyst. Her grandma said Leonardo da Vinci believed amethyst could protect people from evil and make them smarter.

Too bad she didn’t take her purple stone in her pocket that morning. But she wouldn’t think of that until it was too late.

A COLLECTIBLES, ANTIQUES, AND WONDERS sign hung above the door to Mr. Schmidt’s tiny shop.

Griffin pushed open the door. Rusted bells jingled, and smells of dust, must, and exotic spices twisted up her nose. Long rows of glass shelves with faded lace fans, heavy silver hand mirrors, ladies’ hair combs made of bone and shell, and stained decks of old maid cards glowed under the dim cabinet light.

At the back of the store, from behind a velvet curtain, Mr. Schmidt poked his head out. “Good morning, Dr. Penshine and Griffin,” he said. “Let me get that prized antique I was telling you about.” He shuffled away.

Griffin bent her head over a glass case, looking at the lapis eye of a peacock feather and a mirror made of pitch-black polished stone. A handwritten card attached to the exotic feather read: From India 1913. Believed to make wishes come true. Under the circular black stone the card read: Obsidian mirror—used by the ancient Alchemists, passed down from Aztec priests. See your future!

A chill blasted through the room, and Griffin looked up. Behind the counter appeared the oldest woman she had ever seen, wearing a long black dress with a wilting red lily pinned to it. With her greasy gray hair pulled tightly into a bun, the woman’s face resembled a shriveled apple. Wicked wrinkles gouged in her skin, and a grid of purple veins looked like a grotesque spiderweb covering her face.

Griffin stared.

The woman’s eyes drank in Griffin. Then in a low, crackly voice she said, “Only once before in my life have I seen that shiny liquid red color woven into a girl’s hair—half autumn leaves and caramel kisses, half blazing sunset.”

“Griff?” said her mom, coming from behind her. “Find anything?”

“Dr. Penshine and Griffin, forgive me,” said Mr. Schmidt, returning from the back room. “I need to introduce my great-aunt Mariah Weatherby Schmidt, who has come from Topeka to visit for a few weeks. She offered to help me today at the store.”

A sinister smile curled on Mariah’s cracked lips. “What a pleasure to meet you, Griffin Penshine. What are you looking for today?”

“Something for my turtle’s terrarium or something lucky for the first day of school,” Griffin said.

“I see,” said Mariah, her yellow eyes narrowing. “I have just the thing for you. One moment.”

Griffin looked at her mom, but she was too busy examining the antique model of the solar system.

Mariah disappeared through the heavy curtain. Griffin’s head spun. The scent of spices, mandarin orange, dried lavender, cloves, and incense pounded in her brain. “Mom, I have a headache. I’m going to wait outside.”

“Okay. I’ll be five more minutes,” she said.

Just as Griffin’s hand touched the doorknob to leave, Mariah’s cold hand brushed hers. “Where are you going, dear?” She held out a ring box. “This is for you.”

“What is it?” asked Griffin, not moving from the door.

“Open it,” the old woman said, beckoning with her long, spindly fingers.

Griffin slowly took the box from Mariah’s bony hand and looked inside. Beams of light shot out all over the ceiling like lasers, illuminating the store. Carefully Griffin removed a single Indian Head penny.

It bounced in her hand.

“That’s the shiniest penny I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Penshine.

“I’m sure it is,” said Mariah. “I never forget to ... polish it. It is priceless. An Indian Head penny from 1897. Very rare, very valuable, and shall we say ... very lucky.”

“Wow,” said Griffin, mesmerized by the pulsing glow. Droplets of light sprinkled all over the room.

“It must be yours!” said Mariah, her eyes flashing.

The strangest sensation knotted inside Griffin, part repulsion, part desire. “How much is it?” she asked.

“It is my special gift to you.” Mariah smiled wickedly. For a moment Griffin swore Mariah looked younger, luminescent, something wild and alive in her eyes.

“I can’t take something priceless for free,” said Griffin, now blinded by the magnificent penny.

“Just promise you’ll keep it shiny, and it will be ... worth it to me. You will accept my gift, won’t you?”

Every cell in Griffin’s body fought to say, “No. No, thank you!” But the Indian Head penny shined so hypnotically that Griffin could hardly speak. Her pupils dilated from the beams shooting off the penny. She tried to shake her head, stop the odd breeze that whirled around her body. No, she mouthed, but no sound came out. Instead “Yes” exhaled from her lips.

Mariah froze. Then very deliberately she said, “It is done. Let me get a box of polishing cloths from the back for you. Give me a few moments to find it.”

Griffin tucked the penny into her pocket, and it burned against her skin.

Penny, penny bring me luck,
’cause I’m the one who picked you up.

Meet the Author

TRACY TRIVAS, a graduate of Dartmouth College, won a Dartmouth Graduate Fellowship to study Victorian Literature at Oxford University, England. She received her Masters Degree in English from Middlebury College. She directed a Gifted and Talented program in a Los Angeles private school and has published gifted and talented workbooks as well as an adult non-fiction book, A Princess Found. The Wish Stealers is her first book for children. She lives in California with her family.

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The Wish Stealers 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever totally worth it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best Book Eva!!!
Kate Schmiege More than 1 year ago
I love this book i will never forget it! I definetly recomend it!!!!! On a scale from one to ten it is a ten!!!!!!!!great characters and really well written!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you're skeptical about buying this book, you shouldn't be. It was an excellent read, and it really made you think about what you wish for. Very inspiring. Four stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book and would reccomend it to a friend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is the best book i finished it in 30 mins luv it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Best book ever
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVE WISH STEALERS! Its so epic and you don't want to put it down! #-#
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good book with a lesson (kinda)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really good book....very very good Definitely worth buying
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Adult, teens, & kids 10 and up will LOVE LIVE LOVE this book
Sophie Long More than 1 year ago
My name is in a book no i'm kidding with you i love this book I've read the book 1 time and it is very intence I love it
Sydney Carlson More than 1 year ago
good book for people who believe in wishes and curses and that kind of a thing uu
Armand Bourdais More than 1 year ago
i love this book
Kayleigh Harnden More than 1 year ago
this book was so great i have 4 people lined up to read it. i luv that book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it!!!!! Pennies for the planet is real!!!!! U should donate if u liked this book!!!!!! :):):)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has inspired me to be what I want to be. Griffin is like myself because she wants to be a great bass guitarist just like me. I'm always making wish too. I wished for a bass guitar for Christmas because after I played Guitar Hero as the bass, i just always wanted a bass. That's probably somethkng Griffin wished for at my age and got it. The book has inspired me in many ways.
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Get it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I paid seven dollars & it has stayed a sample! I don't know how to fix it. Very disappointing!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book it is amazing you should really read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago