The Wish Giver

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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 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.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The narrator Stewart Meade (nicknamed "Stew Meat"), meets a strange man named Thaddeus Blinn in a carnival tent and notices something unusual about him. Stew Meat sees that there are three children 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, an 11-year-old tomboy, loves to play with bullfrogs and her only two friends. Polly wishes to be popular, have the school's popular girls, Agatha and Eunice, to be friends with her and invite her over for a little tea party in which they would pretend to talk like real ladies. The wish is granted, but now she croaks like a frog when she says vain mean words about other people. Her sudden croaking in the middle of class causes her to become the center of attention – amid much grins and guffaws – at her school. Agatha and Eunice invite her over, but she learns during her visit that the girls are snobbish and unlikable people, and they only invited her to ridicule her for her croaking. 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 about Henry Piper, a traveling salesman she is infatuated with, but only sees three times a year, that he will "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. Rowena founds out that Henry never really liked her, and only pretended to like her so that her father would buy more of his items. She also grows a liking for the family worker, Sam Waxman who helps her throughout the situation with Henry.

Water, Water, Everywhere[edit]

Adam, lives in a farm that has little water and requires it to be trucked in every few days. He wishes for the farm to be covered in water as far as the eye can see. The next day, he is taught dowsing and finds the dowsing rod reacting at every turn. When they dig through the soil, a huge geyser shoots out which initially causes his parents to be joyful. But soon the waterspout 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, since he has the only other Wishing Card in Coven Tree. He accepts, and he grants all their wishes. Polly no longer says mean things about other people, Rowena never saw Henry again and is now dating Sam and Adam travels all around the world to dowse.


Kirkus Reviews described it as "another entertaining tale of magic and transformation." and "Brittain's knack for old-fashioned, funny-scary storytelling makes this another playfully atmospheric tale of strange doings in yesterday's New England."[2]


  1. ^ "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present". American Library Association. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Wish Giver". Kirkus Media LLC. Retrieved 13 August 2015.