I’ve been a primary school teacher for nearly thirty-five years. I’ve worked with the full age range from four to twelve. For most of the last decade I’ve worked with children with special needs alongside their ‘mainstream’ peers. During my career, I must have shared hundreds of books with children. Amongst those books there have been gems and there have been disappointments. Some of the gems are ones that I have owned and shared with my pupils for most of those thirty-plus years. They range from picture books to full length novels. So I feel at least a little qualified to judge what makes a good book for children.
And I’ve just read another gem. The Wishnotist by Trevor Forest is a diamond. As I’ve done with most of Trevor’s books, I shared the reading with some of the pupils at the primary school where I teach. They were wowed too.
The Wishnotist is a wise, witty, warm, wacky, weird and wonderful story. It’s an action-packed tale with the moral ‘be careful what you wish for.’ It’s a contemporary story full of characters and references that are instantly recognisable to the target readership – i.e. children in the upper stages of primary school and early high school. The pace of the storytelling is also perfectly judged for this age group. But what makes it really stand out is that although it has elements of fantasy and magic and although it is also humorous in places, it is a story with real depth.
Jack, the main character, has to resist the pressure put on him by the mysterious Wishnotist to reveal his heart’s desire and make a wish. The story addresses Jack’s typically adolescent confusion and emotional turmoil as he copes with growing up, with his ambiguous feelings towards his disabled brother and his first experience of fancying a girl. And when he does eventually cave in to the Wishnotist’s pressure, the ending is poignant and moving.
Back in March last year I reviewed Trevor’s book ‘Peggy Larkin’s War’ here on the blog. Since then I’ve read Trevor’s other books -‘Abigail Pink’s Angel’, ‘Faylinn Frost and the Snow Fairies’, the ‘Magic Molly’ trilogy – all about a young trainee witch – and the outrageous and hilarious ‘Stanley Stickle Hates Homework’.
Trevor’s gift for writing for children is characterised by his ability to communicate directly with his target readers without talking down to them. He can also make the fantastic and the magical perfectly plausible. He also has that rare ability to tell a high interest story in language that is accessible to young readers and manages to combine this with keeping the adult ‘supporter’ interested too. His books are ideal first novels for children who have perhaps struggled to become independent in their reading.
But most of all Trevor Forest is simply a wonderful and truthful storyteller. The Wishnotist is the latest example of this fact.