What are the Critics Saying??

Katerina’s Wish has found favor with the major review journals in the publishing world. Here is what they have said:

A STARRED REVIEW, from the July 2, 2012 issue of Publishers Weekly

 Thirteen-year-old Katerina (“Trina” to her family) and her father are both dreamers, and it was her father’s dream of a better life that led their family from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) to southern Colorado in 1900. One year later, having settled in a coal mining camp, they are still buried in work and trapped by debt. Then Trina sees a fish that reminds her of a fairy tale about a magic carp; soon after, her two younger sisters’ frivolous wishes are granted. Initially skeptical, Trina eventually makes her wish: for a farm that will make her family happy. Several dichotomies define Mobley’s debut novel: optimism versus realism, magic versus hard work, and xenophobia versus a neighborly immigrant community. The importance of ingenuity, faith, confidence, and the willingness to dream shine through in a rich story threaded with traditional folk tales, which offers realistic dilemmas and a vibrant setting and cast. As Trina rises above the forces conspiring to quash her dream, readers will appreciate her success as she learns the rewards of persistence.

A STARRED REVIEW, from the July 15, 2012 issue of
Kirkus Reviews
Thirteen-year-old Katerina and her little sisters want to believe in their dreams, but life in a Colorado coal camp threatens to turn them into pipe dreams. Take one maybe-magical carp and three sisters who believe in wishes, stir them together with an evil shopkeeper and add a dash of romance, and you have one dandy first novel. Katerina’s sisters wish for little hair ribbons and plum dumplings when they find a special fish, but big sister has appropriately bigger plans. She wishes that her family could leave the coal town and have the farm they hoped to own when they left Bohemia for America in the late 1800s. But dreams are tricky things, easily dashed when real life interferes. This is a world where the coal company owns everything, pays hardworking immigrants in scrip that can only be used at the company store, separates the workers by nationality so they cannot organize and, worst of all, ignores safety regulations. Weaving rich details of life in a mining town at the turn of the 20th century with the pacing of a good old-fashioned historical romance and conveying it all in Katerina's heartfelt voice, Mobley has constructed a world where one determined teenager with brains for business, the bravery to stand up for herself and the ability to find love help make dreams come true. Top-notch.

From the August 1, 2012 issue of
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7–Katerina’s father’s dreams of a better life brought the family of five from Bohemia to America, but now, in the spring of 1901, instead of the prosperous farm he envisioned, they are in a coal-mining camp in southern Colorado, and his wages are barely enough to eke out a living. Katerina, 13, is a pragmatist like her mother, but when she sees a carp in the creek, she is reminded of the folktale her grandmother told her in which a fish granted an old couple three wishes. Their neighbor, Old Jan, retells the story that evening, and when her younger sisters make silly wishes, Katerina is amazed to see them come true. Not fully believing in the carp’s magic, Katerina is still determined not to waste the final wish on something frivolous. She finds herself working harder and coming up with creative ways to add a few extra coins to the family’s tobacco can. As the savings slowly grow, the idea of a farm does not seem so far-fetched. Complicating matters is Old Jan’s son, who has begun courting Katerina, and she is drawn to him, but she cannot reconcile herself to a future in the mining camp. Even after a terrible accident leaves him injured and many of the miners dead, he is hesitant to venture away from the work he has known. Katerina comes to realize that although life is not a fairy tale with magic fish, believing and persevering can make dreams come true. Similar in subject matter to Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s A Coal Miner’s Bride (Scholastic, 2000), this is solid historical fiction with a touch of whimsy and romance.Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

A STARRED REVIEW, from the Sept. 15, 2012 issue of Booklist
In 1900, Katerina’s family left Bohemia for America in hopes of owning a farm. Instead, Papa works in a Colorado coal mine, while 13-year-old Katerina and her sisters help Mama mind the house and do laundry for other miners. Initially prone to daydreaming and wishing, Katerina decides to work hard and earn a path out of the mining camp for her family. When her plans backfire, all seems lost, but she and her family are as resilient as their friends are supportive. One of those friends is Mark, and throughout the story her attachment to him slowly grows, though his insistence on mining, despite a life-threatening accident, causes a rift. This vividly imagined first-person narrative features a number of distinct characters within an unusual historical setting. Neighbors within the camp are divided into national groups by suspicion and prejudice as well as cultural and language differences, an issue handled with sensitivity. From the search for chicken coop materials to the gathering of women waiting for news after a mining disaster, realistic details bring the story to life. The inclusion of European folktales within the narrative frames individual dilemmas within a broader context, and a note on the Colorado coal camps and the author’s research adds dimension to this multi-dimensional first novel.

From the October 2012 issue of Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (Vol 66 No. 2)
Thirteen-year-old Katerina and her family came to America full of dreams, hoping to own their own farm. Instead, however, Katerina's father labors in a Colorado mine, the corrupt practices of early twentieth century minework putting him increasingly in debt to the company store. When Katerina discovers giant carp inhabiting a quiet pool in the nearby river, she remembers a folktale from her youth in which a magic fish grants three wishes. After two wishes that her sisters jokingly make come true, Trina secretly returns to the pond and makes a third wish for a farm. A burgeoning romance with Marek, the neighbor boy, and Katrina's resourceful business purchasing and delivering goods for residents of the mining town add further interest to this carefully researched and crafted historical novel about a young woman caught between a dream and reality. Folktales from her Bohemian home country are woven seamlessly into the narrative, mostly shared by Old Jan, Marek's father, who visits the family every evening and, along with his sons, shares many of the family's trials. The setting is thoughtfully presented, and the book presents the challenges faced by the mining town with authentic emotion. Trina is an appealing character and narrator, who wants desperately to believe that all will end happily for her family but who has lost some of her hope in light of their circumstances. As for the carp, in the end Trina realizes that "the magic was in the believing and not the other way around," and she faces the future with a new sense of empowerment that is certain to serve her well. The open-ended conclusion to the romance thread may disappoint some readers, but they'll be glad that overall things look promising for the Prochazkovas in the end. An author's note about the relevant history is included.

From the November 2012 issue of Atlanta Parent Magazine, a 7th grader’s view!
Katerina’s family moves to a coal-mining town in 1900.  They hope to buy a farm, but her father has to work in the mine and her mother has to take in laundry.   Katerina remembers an old folktale and makes a wish.  I will not tell you if the magic works or not, because I don’t want to spoil what the author has in store. I enjoyed this story: its unique setting, the characters and time period, and most of all, the author’s ability to describe things so well.  When Mark (one of Katrina’s great friends) gets hurt, I had to skip a page because the author described the pain almost too well. At other times, I found myself angry at specific characters, angry enough that I felt like jumping into the book to resolve the problem on my own.
– Walden Jones, 7th grade

From Meridian Magazine, November 16, 2012:
Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley, is historical fiction at its best. It's 1900 and Katerina's family just moved to Colorado from Bohemia where they hope to find a new life. But Papa finds work deep in the coal mines and times are tough. Katerina discovers a way out but it means hard work for her too. There is also a magical folklore element woven throughout the book that beacons back to Bohemia. 

From The Denver Post, Sept. 11, 2012

Katerina's Wish offers a peek into life in a 1900s Colorado coal mining company town. It’s largely grim and thankless, making Katerina wonder why her father uprooted his family and traded his life as a miner in Bohemia to labor at a mine in Colorado. The family’s goal is to save enough money to buy a farm, but how is that possible when the mine owners also run the camp’s only grocery store, which sets prices much higher than what stores charge in a nearby town? And then the mine starts paying in scrip instead of cash, and the scrip is good only at the company store.

Mobley’s lively, engaging story illustrates the frustrations and hardships, and the joys and treasures, of mining camp residents. Her story makes a convincing case that the Ludlow Massacre was an inevitable conflict between miners and their employers.