Wishes cover
Wishes by Muon Thi Van. Illustrated by Victo Ngai

By Mượn Thị Văn
Illustrated by Victo Ngai
Orchard, 2021
36 pages

Ages 5-9

“The night wished it was quieter.” A series of arresting poetic “wish” statements together with the illustrations each is paired with create a powerful, poignant story following the journey of a refugee family. A clock wished it ticked slower as goodbyes are said; a bag wished it was deeper and a boat wished it was bigger: neither can’t hold enough. As the family, which includes two small children, continues its journey in rough seas and under a hot sun, these things, too, wish: to be calmer, cooler. The spare, lyrical text and expansive illustrations in mostly sober hues create a heart-wrenching, ultimately hopeful story as the agency shifts from inanimate objects to the humans at its heart as they arrive in a new place on a new day. This story inspired by the refugee journey of the Vietnamese American author’s family when she was a child is resonant and relevant to the journeys so many children and families are making today. There is ample imaginative space between words and images for young readers and listeners to reflect and discuss what is happening and the feelings surrounding it—the characters’ and their own. In notes, the author shares more about her family’s journey and invites readers to join in her wish for a “safer, kinder, fairer, and more beautiful world”; the illustrator, originally from Hong Kong, shares thoughts on his approach to illustrating a narrative that “speaks to the universality of wishing for hope in a sea of helplessness.”  ©2021 Cooperative Children’s Book Center