Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has plenty of reasons to make a wish--a father in jail, a mother who can't get out of bed and "getting shipped off to this sorry excuse for a town to live with two people I didn't even know"--but there's just one wish she makes every day.

Charlie wishes on the first star at night, three birds on a telephone wire, a camel-shaped cloud, a cricket in the house. But if you tell a wish, it won't come true, so even when she becomes friends with Howard, a "little ole redheaded up-down boy" (one of his legs is shorter than the other, so he walks with a hitch), she keeps her wish a secret as long as she can. Charlie doesn't get off to a terrific start in Colby, N.C. She antagonizes her teacher and fights with her classmates. But with the help of Howard, a stray dog named Wishbone and Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus (her remarkably tolerant temporary guardians), Charlie begins to learn not only how to tame her temper but to understand that the long-wished-for "family that wasn't broken" may not be the one she was born into.

Barbara O'Connor (How to Steal a Dog; The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis; The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester) captures a traumatic transition in a young girl's life without resorting to sentimentality or hard-to-believe happy endings. Charlie's prickly behavior is real, understandable and even charming at times, but readers will cheer as she settles and softens into authentic happiness. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

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