Title: A Wish in the Dark
Author: Christina Soontornvat
Publisher: Candlewick, 2020
In Chattana, the Governor rules. After a devastating fire that destroyed the village, the Governor appeared, bringing with him a new way to create light and all was good again. However, power can illuminate divisions and further separate those that have from the have not. While the three main characters Pong, Somkit, and Nok first cross paths in a prison at age 10, it’s the return of their forces 4 years later (and the experiences they’ve had while apart) that allow Chattana to reconsider power and how to yield it.
This book has a bit something for every middle grade reader (recommended reading age is 8-12 or grades 3-7), which is why I think it makes for an ideal read aloud, either at home on the couch with the whole family or in a classroom full of students. Pong (male prison inmate, mother was arrested, but died at childbirth) and Nok (female, daughter of prison warden) take turns telling the story, This would also be a high interest read for an older student reading below grade level.
Try this checklist to see if it meets the criteria for YOUR readers!
- Male and female characters who are brave, yet vulnerable, with a variety of skill sets
- Fantasy setting (with connections to Thai culture), but with realistic elements of today’s society
- Plot twists told through revealing of new information previously unknown to the characters that change their trajectory (and your opinion of them)
- Social justice issues, specifically relating to power and poverty
- Survival story
- Rule followers
- Rule breakers
- Martial Arts
- Police chase
- Elements of light vs. dark/good vs. evil
- Buddhist monks
- Issues surrounding homelessness and food insecurity
- Wise sages everyone can learn from
- Prison break
- Kids with tattoos
- Fans of Les Mis
- Chapter books with wide margins, making for less text per page (can be less overwhelming for many middle grade readers, despite the length of 375 pages)
This was an easy 5/5 for me on Goodreads, where the book has a 4.43 star rating. It has a 4.7/5 rating on Amazon. And while readers give it high praises, clearly the American Library Association loved it when it was named a 2021 Newbery Honor.
Check out this book trailer from the publisher to further tempt your readers!
Soontornvat, Christina. A Wish in the Dark. Candlewick, 2020.