The Wish Giver

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The Wish Giver
Cover of The Wish Giver
Paperback cover
Author Bill Brittain
Illustrator Andrew Glass
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's book
Publisher Harper & Row
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 181 pp
ISBN ISBN 0-06-020686-1 (First edition)
OCLC 9080819
LC Class PZ7.B78067 Wi 1983

The Wish Giver: Three Tales of Coven Tree is a 1983 young-adult or children's book by Bill Brittain. The "wish giver" in the title refers to the enigmatic man who gives three children a wish to make their deepest dreams come true, but the wishes are not worded carefully, and go horribly wrong. The plot structure and moral of the book are strikingly similar to those of the traditional Faust legend and W. W. Jacobs's short story "The Monkey's Paw."

The Wish Giver was the recipient of a Newbery Honor citation in 1984.[citation needed]

Plot summary[edit]

The narrator Stewart Meade (nicknamed "Stew Meat"), meets a strange man named Thaddeus Blinn in a carnival tent. He notices something unusual about him.

Stew Meat sees that there are three kids in the tent who he recognizes as Polly, Rowena, and Adam. Blinn sells each of them a card with a red spot on it, for only 50 cents each, explaining that all they have to do is to press their finger on the red spot and say their wish and it will come true – exactly as they tell it.


Polly, a sharp-tongued girl whose habit of speaking her mind freely has left her with few friends, makes a wish on her card to be popular. She says that she wants to be noticed, along with wanting the most popular girls in the school, Agetha and Unice, to invite Polly over their home. The wish comes true, but in a completely unexpected manner – she is cursed to croak like a bullfrog whenever she says something rude or spiteful to other people. Only when she has not made any complaints or insults for a while does the croaking subside temporarily.

This curse causes her entire wish to be granted; her sudden croaking in the middle of class causes her to become the center of attention – and much grins and guffaws – at her school, and the two girls she had wished to invite her over do so, if only to ridicule her for her croaking. She is grateful for the invitation, but learns during her visit that the girls are snobbish and unlikable people. She realizes that if she had not spoken whispers to her classmates, she could have easily become friends with them.

The Tree Man[edit]

Rowena makes a wish of her own for Henry Piper, a traveling salesman she is infatuated with, but can only see three times a year. Rowena makes the wish for Henry to "set roots down in Coven Tree and never leave again!" The wish is fulfilled word-for-word: Henry's feet become literally rooted to the ground, and he gradually transforms into a sycamore tree. Much like Polly does, Rowena learns something important from her wish's consequences; a frustrated Henry reveals to her that he never actually liked her, and only flirted with her so that her father would buy more of his items and that most of his travels to exotic locations were taken from brochures rather than genuinely traveling to the places. She also grows a liking for the family worker, Sam Waxman. Sam helps Rowena throughout the situation with Henry.

Water, Water, Everywhere[edit]

Adam, who lives in a farm that receives a sparse amount of water. Adam has to go down to a lake every few days in his truck to collect water and bring it back to the farm. Adam gets tired of the process and wishes for the farm to be covered in water as far as the eye can see. The next day, a friend of his father, who is a dowser, teaches him how to use a dowsing rod to locate water. The friend had no hope as he had dowsed in the farm before and no water is found. He tries this method, and finds that it jumps at every spot on the farm. When they dig through the soil, a huge geyser shoots out. At first, Adam's parents are joyful of this new found source of water, but the waterspout soon grows out of control, flooding the entire farm.


The three stories each end with Adam, Polly, and Rowena running to Stew Meat, asking him to fix their wishes. He does, and all of the wishes are undone. The three children learn the errors of their ways. And they all live happily ever after.