Wednesday, May 13, 2020

MG Fantasy review of A Storm of Wishes (The Collectors #2) by Jacqueline West

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The Collectors:  A Storm of Wishes by Jacqueline West
Format:  Hardcover

Genre:  MG/Fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Number of Pages: 304
Published: October 22nd, 2019
Source:  Purchased

Opening line:  "The thing at the bottom of the well was asleep."

The second location I'm traveling to on the Believathon II:  Journey to the Stronghold readathon is Wonderfalls, which was inspired by R. J. Palacio's book Wonder.  The reading prompt was to read a book featuring a disability.  On this stop, I've selected A Storm of Wishes by Jacqueline West, as the main character, Van (short for Giovanni) is hard of hearing and wears bilateral hearing aids. 

Van and his mother live in New York City where his mother is a famous opera singer.  Most days, she's busy performing and Van is left to fend for himself.  Van is a very imaginative and perceptive boy, and given his hearing loss, his other senses have been heightened.  Van tends to notice the small things that other people miss, like a marble, a stray coin even a glittering bottlecap.  Everything he finds, Van puts into one of his diorama's.  

In the first book of the series, Van's observational skills are what led him to meet Pebble, her squirrel, Barnavelt and later the mysterious group called The Collectors.  Van also met Pebble's uncle Ivor Falborg and his magical Wish Eaters.  Creatures who thrive on the wishes that people make when they blow out a candle, break a wishbone in half or when they throw a coin in a fountain.  At the end of book one, Mr. Falbory tried to kill Van and then abducted Pebble.  The two have seemingly vanished without a trace.  In the process, some of the Wish Eaters were also released, including Van's friend Lemmy.   

Several weeks have passed without any word from Pebble or the Collectors and Van is very concerned.  He was hoping to have some news about Pebble's disappearance by now.  Why hasn't she tried to contact him?  And where did she and Mr. Falborg go?  Did she go willingly or is she being held captive?  Then a set of mysterious events start to occur,  the Collection agency contacts Van questioning whether Pebble has been in contact with him, as lots of wish activity has been noticed around him.  And a dump truck nearly misses running Van over in an alley.  Concerned for Van's safety, his mother moves them to the Fox Den Opera, a mansion surrounded by forests and away from the bustle of the city.  As Van begins to explore the grounds of the mansion, he spies objects on the ground.  First, it's a mini castle, then a Jade dragon, finally he spots pennies which seem to be leading him like a path of bread crumbs through the forest.  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, there is an ancient Wish Eater at the bottom of a well near the grounds of the mansion and it appears Mr. Falborg wants it for his own collection, hoping to use it to access death wishes and to unleash the Collection's Wish Eaters.  To prevent Mr. Falborg from getting his hands on this "rare and powerful being", Van enlists the help of the Collectors to find a way to stop him.

One of the things I really enjoyed about A Storm of Wishes is that Van's hearing loss and his wearing hearing aids aren't the central points of the plot.  Van is just like any other boy who is concerned about his friend.  His hearing aids are just a tool he utilizes to help him communicate with people.   I love the way that West utilizes the dialog to illustrate Van's difficulties.  Using Van's attempts to fill in the gaps in the conversation, illustrating that by him knowing the context, the speaker, and any nonverbal cues, he is able to figure out what is being said.  It's explained in a way that children will easily understand and relates to how children fill in the gaps for a word in the text that they aren't able to read.    These real-life examples will help readers to have a better understanding of what a hearing impairment might be like, and especially highlights the importance of directly looking at someones face for speech reading. 

Another aspect of the story that I enjoyed is the ambiguity of who the good versus the bad people are and whether bad people are all bad, is it possible that they may have good intentions?  West also questioned whether all wishes should come true.  Whether some wishes do more harm than good?  Also, there's the grey area of what makes up the greater good.  Personally, I was questioning Pebble's motivations, some of what she said to Van in the second book seemed harsh and hurt Van's feelings.  I wasn't sure whether she was really concerned about Mr. Falborg's plans to release the Wish Eater's and wondered whether something had changed in their friendship.  Happily, this was resolved by the end of the story.   I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.       

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