Make-A-Wish creates a perfect day for a kid with a serious illness.
Mark, white and blond, stays in the hospital for long stretches because “he has bad cells in his blood.” One day the wish fairies arrive, and Mark wishes “to catch bad guys.” On his special day with firefighters (teaching him to be brave) and police officers, Mark climbs a high ladder, shoots a fire hose, and handcuffs his father. Then a call comes in: there’s a break-in at a hamburger stand. Whether that break-in is real or arranged by the wish fairies (why are Mark and the police wearing balaclavas?), the ending’s safe and comical, though it hinges on a mocking caricature of fat people. Mark’s day is full of grins; not all readers would feel such safety and glee around police, but Mark sure does. Timmermans’ stiff, somewhat cartoony illustrations are emotionally cold, somehow conveying the characters’ fun without offering it to readers. In an unfortunate visual trope of Asian characters, fireman Liang’s eyes appear closed. The stodgy prose offers lessons to readers (classmates can’t visit Mark, but “a nice drawing is always a good idea!”) but never really explains why the wish fairies are a big deal. While serious childhood illness is rare fodder for picture books, the level of seriousness here is underplayed until the author’s note—a section readers often skip—that explains that Make-A-Wish serves kids with “life-threatening medical conditions.”
A purpose piece without a clear purpose. (Picture book. 5-8)