A speaking appearance by author Kate Messner was cancelled by a Vermont elementary school on June 6 because school officials feared that discussion of her new book, which includes a character who is a heroin addict, might anger parents of the fourth- and fifth-grade students participating in the program. In The Seventh Wish (Bloomsbury Children’s Books), a young girl discovers that magic can’t cure her older sister’s addiction. In giving the book a starred review, Kirkus Reviews called it “hopeful, empathetic, and unusually enlightening.”
Holly Rouelle, the principal of the Chamberlin Elementary School in South Burlington, apologized to Messner. Rouelle acknowledged that the event had been on the schedule for months and that the school had received a review copy of the book. Parents were also notified of the event in advance. But Rouelle said that the notification had not been adequate and that the school staff was unprepared to answer any questions that students might ask after the presentation.
The school has agreed to make the book available in its library.
In a blog post, Messner described the cancellation as a missed opportunity to educate kids about the epidemic of opioid addiction that may affect a member of their family or someone else they know. “It’s our job to make books available for the families who need them, to respect the rights of families to choose or not choose whatever books they want and need. But not to make those decisions for them without ever giving them a chance,” Messner wrote.
Following the cancellation of the Messner event, the South Burlington Community Library scheduled a reading and discussion of The Seventh Wish for June 28 at 4:00 p.m. “Our goal is to put a book in the hands of every kid who comes,” Messner said.
Bloomsbury has donated 20 copies of The Seventh Wish to the library event. Phoenix Books in South Burlington is also accepting orders from anyone who wishes to donate a copy. Those who wish to donate can use this link and write “South Burlington Library Donation” in the comments field.