For Ages
8 to 12

All that stands between ten-year-old Beatrice and an amazing life are five wishes…and she’s got a plan to make them all come true! A magical and heartfelt adventure about grief, hope, and the power of human connection.

Beatrice Corwell has a crooked haircut, eight well-trained cats, and a plan: she’s turning herself into a Tin Man. Once her heart is made of metal, she’ll no longer miss her beloved dead grandma, her absent dad, or her recently moved-away best friend. 

While Beatrice awaits her transformation, she keeps vigil with a special doll and a handful of wishes she’s determined to make come true. With her encyclopedic knowledge, there must be a way to grant her heart’s deepest desires. 

When an unusual boy named Caleb moves to town and mentions his granny’s interest in magic, Beatrice decides to enlist their help. She quickly learns, however, that spells don’t always go as planned, and witches can’t be trusted. 

With the arrival of an unexpected visitor and a series of otherworldly messages, Beatrice’s plans begin to falter. Will her heart turn into metal? Will any of her wishes come true? 

The Wonderful Wishes of B. is the story of a smart, quirky girl learning what she wants and what she needs—and how, sometimes, the wishes we hold dearest are granted in the most unexpected ways.

An Excerpt fromThe Wonderful Wishes of B.

Chapter 1

It all started with Neptune. Not the planet. The cat. Though he wasn’t named Neptune yet. He was just an anonymous kitten stuck in a waterspout, and I was trying to save him. That’s what I told him, too.

“Please stop scratching me,” I said. “I’m trying to save your life.”

It was New Year’s Day. Glad was dead and always would be. That was the truth and a point-blank fact.

Here’s another fact: there are many ways to miss somebody.

You can miss what they looked like, or how they smelled, or the feel of their palm in your hand. You can miss the sound of their voice or the space their life took up in your head. You can miss the notes they left, tucked in your lunch box or slipped in your sock drawer or hidden in the pages of your books.

I missed my grandma Glad all the ways. Every single one of them: all the ways I could think of, and all the ways I couldn’t think of, too.

But back to the kitten.

When I told him I was trying to save his life, either the cat thought I was lying or he didn’t understand. Because he started to scratch me even more, like he was pretending my arm was a scratch-and-sniff sticker, and he wanted to get all the smell out.

What the Cat-Who-Would-Be-Named-Neptune didn’t know, though, was that I was pretending, too. I was pretending his claws weren’t bringing tears to my eyes, that I couldn’t feel the beads of blood sprouting on my wrist.

What Future Planet couldn’t see was that the whole experience--me crouched on the sidewalk in my polka-dot pajamas and fuzzy slippers, arm jammed inside a waterspout--was a good one. It was training for my goal. Which was this:

I wanted to stop feeling.

You know the Tin Man, who wanted a real, beating heart? Well, I was a real, beating girl who wanted to be a Tin Man. Right in the center of my chest is where I wanted to be him, to replace the horrible muscle that pumped and pumped, filling my life with feelings.

I was sick of missing Glad, sick of all my other feelings, too. So I’d decided to do something about it.

See, what I imagined was my heart, all stretched out and bumpy. The bumps were my feelings. Every time I didn’t cry or wince or think, I wish I could see her again, it was like I was taking a mallet and hitting one of those bumps. The more times I hit, the smoother my heart got, till one day, it wouldn’t be muscle anymore, but perfectly flat, like a sheet of metal. Goodbye, heart. Hello, Tin Man.

I got down on my stomach and pressed my face to the waterspout. Two eyes shone back.

“You think you’re hurting me,” I told the eyes, “but really you’re helping me. The more you scratch, the less I feel. The less I feel, the more metallic I become.”

The kitten hissed.

“I’ve got all day,” I told him. “I have absolutely nowhere to go.”

“Who you talkin’ to?” a voice asked.

Unfortunately, the voice did not belong to the kitten.

I stayed on my stomach, eye pressed to the metal spout. The voice belonged to a boy. Maybe, I thought, if I lie here and don’t say anything, the voice will go away. I decided to count to twenty in my head. One . . . two . . .

“Why aren’t you answerin’ me?” the voice asked.

Three . . . four . . .

“Can’t you hear?”

The voice was kind of rude. Five . . . six . . .

“What you lookin’ at?”

Seven . . .

“Can I see it?”

It was also rather annoying. Eight . . . nine . . .

“You might cut yourself. That metal looks sharp.”

Ten . . .

“Rusty, too. I bet you’ll get tetanus.”

The voice was a bit of a worrywart. Eleven . . . twelve . . .

“Your whole face will fall off. Green slime’ll leak from your eyes.”

The voice didn’t know much about infections. Thirteen . . . fourteen . . .

“Well, I tried bein’ nice to you. I guess I’ll have to be mean instead.”

Fifteen . . . sixteen . . .

“I’m gonna kick you.”

The voice was violent. Seventeen . . .

“As hard as I can. And that’s really hard because I’m superstrong.”

The voice was very violent. Eighteen . . .

“I’m the strongest kid in Ohio. Plus, I got steel-toed boots--with nails stickin’ out the ends.”

Hmm . . . The voice was probably lying. Nineteen . . .

“Okay. You’re gonna regret this. Here I go--”

“Don’t.” I sat up.

The voice was, indeed, a liar. The boy was not wearing steel-toed boots with nails sticking out at the ends. In fact, he wasn’t wearing boots at all. He had on a pair of dirty sneakers with a hole in both toes. I could see his socks.

“You’re a liar,” I told him.

The boy shrugged. “My name’s Caleb Chernavachin,” he said, as if that explained everything, as if a boy named Caleb Chernavachin could not help but be a liar.

I stared at him. His face was round and covered in freckles, like someone had taken a saltshaker full of freckles and shaken them all over his head. He had short, straw-colored hair with long bangs that stuck straight up off his forehead. He wore a puffy winter coat that was so small he couldn’t zip it, and the sleeves came up to his elbows. He was a ridiculous-looking boy. I wanted nothing to do with him.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

“Beatrice Corwell.”

“Are you ten?”

I nodded.

“So am I,” he said, and tilted back on his heels as if that were really something.

“There are a lot of people in the world who are ten,” I told him. “So, really, we have nothing in common.”

“Yeah, well, my dad is a famous wrestler. So I’m richer than you are.”

“I’m not rich at all.” I lay down again on the sidewalk with my face to the waterspout. “I’m going to get back to saving you as soon as this boy leaves,” I whispered in case the kitten thought I’d forgotten.

Neptune-to-Be hissed.

“Who you talkin’ to?” Caleb asked.

“No one.” I sat up again.

“Why aren’t you wearin’ a coat?”

“It’s bad luck to wear a coat on New Year’s Day.” I don’t know why I said that. I didn’t believe it; I just made it up on the spot. That happened to me a lot. I’d open my mouth, and out would spill words I hadn’t planned to say. It was, my teacher said, a fatal flaw.

The real reason I didn’t have on a coat was because I’d forgotten to put one on when I ran outside. I’d been sitting in Glad’s room, staring at Bright Baby, when I heard the kitten. Despite being on the second floor, I could hear its cry plain as day. (I was a natural-born cat rescuer, which was why I already had seven of them.) So I flew down the staircase--even though it was January and cold as a Popsicle, even though I had on polka-dot pajamas and fuzzy slippers.

Caleb Chernavachin looked at those slippers and said, “You sure are dressed funny.”

I stared at his too-small coat. “Have you looked in the mirror?”

“Your hair, too. It’s all crooked or somethin’.”

Now, that was the truth and a point-blank fact. My hair was the color of mud, cut just below my chin, and very crooked. That was because my mom had cut it, and she was a horrible haircutter. When Glad was alive, my hair had been a thing of great beauty. I looked like one of the models whose pictures hang in beauty salons. In fact, I was a haircut model whose headshot hung in Glad’s beauty parlor. It still hung there, actually. But now, thanks to my mom, I no longer looked anything like my picture.

I didn’t tell this to Caleb, though. I just said, “Your bangs stick straight up in the air like porcupine quills.”

Caleb touched his quills with his palm. “I’m very rich.”

I eyed his big toes. “I’ve never met a rich person with such holey shoes.”

“It’s the new style,” he said, then changed the subject. “I saw you at school. Did you see me?”

I shrugged. Maybe yes, maybe no is what my shoulders said. But the real answer was yes, I’d seen him. It was impossible not to. Mrs. Hartley had stood in front of the room two weeks ago and said, “Class, we have a new student. His name is--”

But I had stopped listening. Porcupine-headed boys didn’t interest me. It was the last day of school before Christmas vacation, and I was thinking about my cats. All seven of them. I’d needed to make them presents.

“You want me to help you get that cat outta there?” the ridiculous boy asked.

“How’d you know it was a cat?”

He grinned. “I’m smart. I got ESP. Plus, I can see through walls.”

You can tell why I called him ridiculous. “No thanks.”

Caleb shrugged. “Your loss, Beatrice. Happy New Year.” He walked on down the sidewalk.

“New Year,” I called to his back. I did not say happy. No year without Glad in it could be happy.

I turned to the waterspout. “Okay. I’m done messing around. It’s time to be saved.” I got on my stomach and took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Then I thrust my arm into the metal tube and wrapped my fingers around a furry body.

The kitten screamed. He clawed. He cried. Then he was out in the open, and I was seeing him for the first time.

He was puffy and black with robin’s-egg eyes. He was the cutest thing that had ever existed. My heart swelled up super fat.

Which was a problem.

Tin Men don’t love kittens. But--I wasn’t a Tin Man yet. My heart was a work in progress.

“You shall be called Neptune,” I told the kitten, who flailed about, trying to escape my grasp. I cupped him close to my chest and pressed my mouth to the top of his dusty head.

The kitten settled down then. They always do.

“I’ll take you home, and my mom will give you a bath.” Even though my mom was horrible at cutting human hair, she was very good at styling cats.

I looked around the downtown, which was empty. Seven o’clock in the morning on New Year’s Day, and no one was out except me, and Neptune, and Caleb Chernavachin (wherever he was).

And even though this new year was going to be horrible, and even though I was so cold I felt part snowman--I smiled because of the kitten. But I did not feel happy. Tin Men never feel happy.

I walked down the sidewalk to my grandma Glad’s beauty parlor. GLAD’S, read the big purple letters on the building. The parlor was empty and dark. If Glad were a ghost, I might have seen her in there. But Glad wasn’t a ghost. Glad was far away, in heaven, a place that couldn’t be seen with human eyes.

I climbed the metal steps, to the upstairs apartment. I imagined hot cocoa for me and a saucer of milk for Neptune. But before I opened the door, I paused.

I’d just thought of something.

Life happens in threes. First, one toy breaks, then another, and another. If a kid’s rude to you in math class, you know you’ll get it in English and social studies, too.

Well, I’d just met two somebodies: one in a waterspout, one in an itty-bitty coat. That meant there was one more somebody to go.

Standing on the stairs, I looked down at the town. Buildings dark, traffic circle empty--not a soul in sight. But someone was out there. Someone extraordinary, with the power to change everything.

And I knew that someone was just waiting for the right moment to arrive.

Chapter 2

I know a lot. Not as much as my best friend, Dianne of the Flame-Red Hair, of course. She knows everything. That’s because she lives out in the country--at least she used to, before she moved to Florida. She lived in a little house with an herb garden in the back. She’d pick spearmint leaves, and we’d chew them like gum. We’d gather wild strawberries, and Dianne knew how to smash them and mix them with sugar and turn them into jam. A creek ran through the middle of her yard, and we’d spend all day looking for fossils. Dianne knew all about fossils, especially trilobites. Her dream was to find a trilobite and put it on display in her bedroom.

Dianne was tough, too. She’d climb apple trees so high that her knees got scraped bloody, but she never winced. In public, she was kind of solemn, but that’s only because she had so many thoughts colliding in her head. When we were alone, she’d flash a secret smile so bright it made me squint. What I’m trying to say is, not only is Dianne of the Flame-Red Hair the toughest, most interesting girl in the world, she’s also a genius.

And I’m pretty smart, too.

That’s not bragging. It’s just the truth and a point-blank fact. Glad is who made me so smart. When she was dying in her bed, I sat beside her and held her bony hand.

It took Glad a long time to die. Weeks and weeks. The days piled up like bones. I’d talk to her, but she couldn’t talk back. She just lay there, eyes closed, long gray hair spread out like a fan. You can only talk so much till your voice starts to hurt. So I’d stop, and then I’d get bored. That’s why I started reading the encyclopedia.

Glad had a whole set--twenty-six books in all. I started at Aachen and read all the way to Zworykin. Twenty-six books. That’s how long it took Glad to die. And that’s why I know so much.

Like about wishes, how heavy they are. And how, when you have too many of them, they start to weigh you down, like books in your backpack. I’d look out my apartment window and count wishes on my fingers.

I wish Glad hadn’t died.

I wish Dianne hadn’t moved to Florida.

I wish my mom could cut hair.

I wish my dad would come back.

Plus, one more wish that was tip-top secret and hurt, like a hangnail, whenever I counted it.

Tin Men don’t count wishes; I knew that. They don’t stare out windows and touch their fingers. Tin Men look straight ahead, not thinking about what could be or has been. They only think about what is.

Under the Cover