The Fourth Wish

ABOUT Elizabeth Varadan

Elizabeth Varadan
Elizabeth Varadan is a former teacher who lives in Sacramento with her husband and their loveable mutt, Cezar.
Her story, "Golden Eggs and a Silvery Voice" appeared in the April, 2008 issue of Ladybug. Her adult stories have appeared in The Rockford Review, Word Riot, Art  More...


It's winter vacation, and eleven-year-old Melanie has to babysit her brother Cory, and their little sister Erin. Pesky Arthur from next door joins them on their way to see a magic show when the four encounter Mrs. Seraphina, who claims she can grant wishes. 

Cory carelessly wishes that the magician can do real magic. Soon they are all running from Mondo, who's been fired for making the theater manager really float. At Daisy's Do-nuts, the four worry about how to undo their wish. When Mrs. Seraphina shows up, a new wish only creates new havoc.

Meanwhile, Melanie has other things to sort out: Will the cute new boy in sixth grade ever notice her? Can her divorced parents every get back together again? Will Arthur ever stop being a jerk? And why is Mondo giving her mother rides home from work? 

A trip to the skating rink and the Christmas Eve party hold answers to her questions.

I have always been intrigued by magic. And since writing this, I have learned there really is a mysterious old woman who wanders around the neighborhood described in this book. Life imitating art? Hmmm.

From "Jess" (Amazon Review)

From the very first chapter of Elizabeth Varadan's The Fourth Wish, you'll be hooked. At no time does she resort solely to intrigue and magic to carry the plot. Dialogue and character development are equally appealing. Each character is unique, and the internal plots are as tender as the external ones are exciting. The Fourth Wish manages to awaken the possibility of magic even in adult readers, and my teenage children were begging to know what the wishes entailed and resulted in as I swept through the story.

And then, there is Mrs. Seraphina. A veritable Mary Poppins, Mrs. Seraphina is unique, mysterious, and, of course, quite magical. Varadan's story will leave you peeking around store corners and wishing that a Mrs. Seraphina of your very own would appear, even in the face of mischief that invariably follows her.

This was a delightful read reminiscent of Edward Eager's Half-Magic :)

Nancy Laughlin - San Francisco, Ca USA
The Fourth Wish by Elizabeth Varadan is a wonderful, middle grade story of magic and wishes with consequences. As eleven-year-old Melanie, her younger brother Cory, little sister Erin and their neighbor Arthur head to the local theatre to see Mondo the Magician's magic act, they come across an elderly woman who loses control of a shopping bag full of Christmas presents. As the spill all over the side walk and street, Cory rushes to her aid, thinking of his next Boy Scout badge. But Mrs. Seraphina is no ordinary old woman, and she declares that good deeds deserve a reward and offers Cory a wish, one to which they all agree. 

But when their wish comes true with disastrous consequences for Mondo the Magician, they seek out Mrs. Seraphina and make another wish to fix it. As each new wish brings them more and more unexpected problems, they face their fourth and final fix-it-wish, along the way learning a number of important lessons.

This is a story of dreams and responsibilities, cool versus kind, divorce, loss of a parent, remarriage and the true meaning of family. The four children in this story are likeable and believable, especially with regards to sibling rivalries and even their birth order. Both Melanie and Arthur, in particular, rang true for me. The author did a wonderful job there, especially with a bus ride conversation between the two that revealed a side of Arthur that Melanie had never before considered, enabling both characters a level of growth. 

This is a book for budging magicians, children who love magic or who dream of being granted three wishes. This is also a book for Sacramento, CA children as it describes many locations familiar to those from the area. 

Alice Hollinbeck - Sacramento, CA USA
The Fourth Wish is a middle-grade book set in Sacramento. It opens with four kids (siblings Melanie, Cory, and Erin, and a neighbor, Arthur) going to a magic show and movie. We learn the three sibling's father had recently left, and they are having a hard time dealing with the loss. On their way to the magic show, the four encounter a strange old woman, Mrs. Seraphina. The bag she is carrying breaks and the kids help her pick up the strange objects that have spilled out. She gives each of them a wish box, but they must all agree on a wish. You know the old saying: Be careful what you wish for... Cory gets the first wish and it is that The Great Mondo will do real magic, not just tricks. Well, once this particular rabbit is out of the hat, it's pretty hard to get it back in. The domino effect of this wish is quite something. Mondo's magic show goes completely out of control and he loses his job. Of course, the kids feel it's their fault and set about trying to fix everything by finding the mysterious Mrs. Seraphina and using the other three wishes to put things back the way they should be. They learn just how specific every wish has to be as things go wrong with each try. 

This is quite a romp through modern-day Sacramento. The setting is dead on and the children have normal lives with normal problems, yet there is plenty of funny stuff going on and enough of a mystery to keep the pages turning and turning. Kids from nine to ninety, will enjoy this fun summer read.

Children's Book Reviewer
Children from the ages of 9-12 are going to enjoy this 210 page chapter book. It is entertaining and hard to put down. 
Michelle Fayard - Los Molinos, CA USA
Melanie isn't in the mood to believe in magic, but it comes looking for her anyway in the form of a most eccentric character in Elizabeth Varadan's The Fourth Wish. 

Eleven-year-old Melanie McCormick thinks her school vacation will be, at best, boring, although she suspects it will be something much worse. Her parents have recently divorced, her mother is working longer hours and Melanie has to help out more around the house. If that weren't enough, her younger brother and sister and her brother's best friend are tagging along everywhere she goes. How will she ever manage to catch the eye of the school's newest heartthrob or talk privately on the phone with her best friend, Jenny? 

While on their way to see a magic show, Melanie, Cory, Erin and Arthur help a stranger pick up the spilled contents of a shopping bag. What the four don't realize is the stranger, who introduces herself as Mrs. Seraphina, is the one who really is magic. When she grants a wish to Melanie's brother, the first to volunteer to help Mrs. Seraphina, a domino effect of complications ensues, sending ripples into the lives of not only the four children but the magician, The Great Mondo, a struggling performer who adds his own unique, and unintended, magic to the plot. 

Filled with mystery and enchantment, this fast-paced and gripping story will make you wonder what would you ask for if granted one wish. Would it be a wise choice without any unexpected consequences? What about the person who is the recipient of your wish--how will it change his or her life? And what if one day you were the recipient of someone else's wish, for remember Mrs. Seraphina can grant four of them, and Melanie, Erin and Arthur still have theirs to make ... 

This is a book whose characters, dialogue and setting are all on target, and the mystery is both magical and satisfying. You'll wish you didn't have to reach the end. And you'll find yourself wishing for a sequel. It's a great read for youth and the young at heart.

Rachel Hansen - Sacramento, CA USA
My eleven-year-old daughter and I read this book together, and we both enjoyed it. The characters are realistic kids with real families, community, friendships, and problems. When the chance to make some wishes comes along, they learn that unintended consequences can get out of control. They have to work together to fix the problems their wishes create. A fun read for kids and moms alike!

Nancy A. Herman - Placerville, CA USA
The children in The Fourth Wish could use a little magic in their lives. They are not only dealing with the normal childhood challenges such as sibling rivalry, first crushes, and a long, uneventful school vacation stretching out before them. They are also dealing with the recent abandonment of their father and the new, but necessary absence of their mother as she now works to support the family. One couldn't blame them for being amused and cynical when a mysterious old woman grants them four wishes, but the events that follow take them on a long magical adventure, right in their own neighborhood. Because the characters, dialogue, and setting all feel so ordinary and familiar, this story of magic seems quite believable. This reader hopes there will be sequels.

Patricia King - Sacramento, CA USA     
In this story the Characters take you on their adventure from
a boring vacation which is about to change when they meet Mrs. Seraphina, who starts them on their wonder of magic.

Marj Stuart - Pine Grove CA, USA
What else can a kid ask for - other kids living real lives, a little adventure, a bit of sibling rivalry, plenty of magic, real-life problems! Mrs. Seraphina and the three siblings keep catching me up in their magic. I'm recommending it to every chapter-book reader I know.

Diane Gross-Hagerty

Sacramento Books Examiner
Over the past few weeks, I have been carrying on a conversation with Sacramento author Elizabeth Varadan about her middle grade fantasy entitled The Fourth Wish.  The story asks the question of four young individuals - What would you ask for if given unlimited possibility? Would you want a Lamborghini?  Would you want to be the new owner of Lego World?  Would you want to see your parents get back together?

This last question is what sets this story apart from other fantasies gauged to this age group.  Varadan's characters feel "real."  They are dealing with divorce, death of a parent, annoying siblings and their friends.  Loads of research has been done to get at the basic fact that kids need to see themselves and their life situations represented in the books that they are reading.  This helps kids to realize that they are "normal" - they are okay.  This also helps to build connections with the characters being portrayed.  When this is mixed into a magical whimsical world the outcome is quite satisfying.  This would also be an interesting novel for teachers to use as a read-a-loud purely for the inferential questions that could be posed.