Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak


112 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-88899-645-4
DDC j956.04





Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


Most readers are aware of Deborah Ellis’s fiction, such as her trilogy
set in Afghanistan (The Breadwinner, 2000; Parvana’s Journey, 2002;
Mud City, 2003) and her novels set in Africa (The Heaven Shop, 2004;
Chanda’s Secrets, 2004), which address contemporary global social
issues. With Three Wishes, Ellis turns to non-fiction, writing about the
Israeli–Palestinian conflict using the voices of 20 Jewish, Christian,
and Muslim children whom she interviewed in Israel and the Palestinian
territories during November and December 2002. The nine males and 11
females, equally divided between Israelis and Palestinians, range in age
from eight to 18. They speak candidly, and largely negatively, about
what daily life is like as they grow up in this war-torn area.

For each of the 18 entries, which vary in length from three to seven
pages, Ellis writes an introduction that provides a context for what the
narrator will say. With the exception of the 12-year-old sister of a
17-year-old female suicide bomber, each entry is accompanied by a small
black-and-white photo of the narrator. Most entries also include a
black-and-white captioned photograph of the area/place in which the
narrator lives, but most are too small and lack sufficient contrast to
be useful. Ellis avoids charges of bias by having chosen her narrators
carefully so that many different voices and perspectives are
presented—although their overall tone regarding a resolution to the
conflict is pessimistic.

Following the book’s brief historical introduction, Ellis underscores
her deep concern for war’s innocent victims by listing the 429 under
age 18 who were killed just between September 29, 2000, and March 7,
2003. Closing sections include “Further Reading” (a list of 11
fiction and non-fiction books directly or tangentially connected to the
conflict) and “Organizations” (a list of the websites for eight
organizations that are trying to make a difference in the
Israel/Palestine situation). Unfortunately, use of the word
“Children” in the book’s title, coupled with the cover’s two
photographs of preteen children, suggests a much younger audience than
the book’s contents really demand. Highly recommended.


Ellis, Deborah., “Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 24, 2024,