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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
It’s Kalani’s fifth birthday and she’s excited to have Ava there to play with her. They ride Kalani’s new scooter, but when they reach old Mrs. Wobbelot’s house, they both feel sad. Why? Because Mrs. Wobbelot is grumpy and sad. Kalani wants Mrs. Wobbelot to be different. When Uncle Mike asks her how she could be different, the two girls come up with rhyming ideas of how she could be different. For example, Kalani suggests that if Mrs. Wobbelot were a bird, the girls could ride on her wings and learn how to sing. When Uncle Mike explains who Mrs. Wobbelot had been when he was young, the girls come up with a plan to cheer her up. They reasoned that it must be hard being old.
Jeanine Long Tuohy’s picture book story, Kalani and Ava’s Big Wish, is a clever way to teach young readers to be compassionate and caring to their elders and not just classify them as grumpy. The two protagonists, Kalani and Ava, lead the plot through their playful fun and excitement to pensive thoughts about their old neighbor. The climax is reached when the two girls, having learned a bit about Mrs. Wobbelot, come up with a plan to help make her smile. The story is told in simple language with lots of dialogue. The part of the story which reflects the girls’ ideas of how to change Mrs. Wobbelot is very cleverly presented in rhyming verse. The illustrations are bright, bold, and colorful and help carry the story along. A powerful and important message: caring and showing respect for one’s elders, something we all need to remember from time to time. Beautifully told.