Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak (Review)

March 23, 2010

Book cover for "Three Wishes" by Deborah Ellis.Title: Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak

Author: Deborah Ellis

Publication Year: 2007

Pages: 112

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Purchased from Chapters.ca

I first spotted this book on a list of challenged books in Canada on the Freedom to Read website. It’s been the cause of a fairly large uproar among the librarians in the province because of the results of it being challenged by the Canadian Jewish Congress, even though the Ontario Library Association recommended it as part of the Silver Birch reading program. In my school board (Toronto), the end result was that the book is now on restricted access to students in grades 7 or higher, and is also not located on the actual shelves. There are some Ontario school boards where the book is still entirely not available.

The main crux of the argument is the accuracy of the historical introduction of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as well as the portrayal of Israeli soldiers, ethnic hatred, and suicide bombing.

Frankly, I thought that this book was fantastic. The author interviewed children on both sides of the conflict (and “children” included anyone up to about 18 years of age), with a variety of different views, opinions, and experiences represented. Each interview was distilled into a short section of the book and usually introduced by a brief description giving historical context for subjects that the children talked about. There were children on both “sides” who held similar or opposing views on a number of issues, including the occupation in general, settlement of Gaza by Israelis, checkpoints, suicide bombing, and curfews.

The concept of “three wishes” for each child was attempted through the book, but not always executed – some of the children gave less than three, and some of the sections didn’t touch on this at all. But in general, it was still a nice link between the narratives, showing that all of the children in the area wish something about their situation would change.

Younger students might need guidance to properly read and understand this book without being confused or drawn in by some or all of the conflicting opinions expressed by the children. There are some points that are more violent or ethnically-charged than others, and students unfamiliar with the conflict would definitely benefit from having an impartial adult help them navigate the concepts and experiences presented.

I definitely disagree with it being banned completely, though. Books like this are extremely important if we want our next generation to grow up with an empathy for other people and an understanding of major contemporary world issues.

If you’re at all interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly in the first-hand experiences of children, read this book.

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