I was home, asleep in my bed. Amrei shook me awake.
‘Jack! Jack! Wake up!’
She told me to run. I thought she was having a nightmare. I rolled over and went on snoring. I wish I had listened. I wish I had run.
What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!
What’s a zoo keeper’s favourite vegetable? A zoo-chini!
Why do birds fly south in winter? Because it’s too far to walk!
Here’s the real joke: I’m not who they think I am.
They’ve brought me here because they think I’m Number 49, but I’m not. I’m not an Orphan or an Unwanted Child. And that’s who this place is for. It says so above the door when you first come in.
Jack is in an orphanage, and he knows it’s all a mistake. He has a big and loving extended family. But the nuns aren’t listening, even though he’s the one who is deaf. He has been separated from his sisters and brother and despite his best efforts he can’t find them. Slowly he realises that it is no mistake and he will have to get himself home. He keeps telling his jokes in an effort to maintain his spirits and those of his fellow ‘orphans’. In a parallel story, his older sister Amrei, who has the gift of sight, is trying to find him and their siblings. She feels guilt that her warnings weren’t clear enough and a responsibility to put things right. If she can. At home, the family pines for the lost children.
The orphanage where Jack is being held is a harsh place, where care of children is a burden carried heavily and churlishly by most of the nuns. There are notable exceptions but their kindnesses put them in danger too. No Stars to Wish on is a magical story of the power of love and hope. Amrei’s gift of sight and Jack’s ability to communicate inspire joyfulness in the midst of cruelty and sadness. It is important that our children learn about the mistakes of the past, to ensure that they are never repeated. Jack’s voice captures the innocence and surety of love while allowing the reader to understand that what is happening to him is wrong. ‘No Stars to Wish On’ reads like a fable, offering truths in magic. Recommended for mid-primary readers.
No Stars to Wish on, Zana Fraillon Allen & Unwin 2014 ISBN: 9781743315149