Wishes and Wellingtons

Sourcebooks. Oct. 2020. 384p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781728223254.
Gr 3-6–When schoolyard brawler Maeve Merritt gets assigned garbage duty for detention, the last thing she expects to find is a djinni in a discarded sardine tin. Mermeros the djinni might be able to grant Maeve three wishes, but he warns her about greed that leads to “madness and ruin.” Though Maeve just wants to travel and start a girls’ cricket team, the consequences of greed grow as other people seek to steal Mermeros away from her. Aided by her roommate Alice and the orphan boy-next-door Tommy, Maeve learns to use her wits rather than her fists to keep Mermeros out of the clutches of the villainous Mr. Treazleton and Baroness Gabrielle. Berry’s novel, set in Victorian England, offers readers a challenging, truculent protagonist in Maeve, whose rebellion against traditional gender roles and expectations often leads her to ignore the suffering of others. Mermeros is delightfully grouchy; he is not a captive of his fishy tin and his wish-granting role suits his mordant sense of humor. However, his historical and cultural otherness never gains Maeve’s full attention; the growth of her empathy is local as she learns to advocate for Tommy, who is otherwise doomed to work at a cotton mill. Some background on djinni mythology and Mermeros’s Mesopotamian origins would have been be interesting, especially when the novel takes place at the height of Britain’s “Age of Empire.”
VERDICT This novel spotlights friendship and an athletic, unconventional heroine, but the depiction of the djinni is under-explored and simplistic. Readers looking for a fantastical romp through Victorian England will be entertained.

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