I'm struggling to find a book that I read in the mid-1990's (published before 1995, probably, definitely before 1996). It would have been geared towards teens or pre-teens.

It is set in a small, impoverished town, in the middle of a drought and features someone (or something?) going around and granting wishes but (expectedly) the wishes all go wrong. One girl wishes that her beaux would "root up" and stay in town, but instead he starts turning into a tree. A boy wishes that that he would be able to find water with a dowsing rod but that only starts a flood.

2 Answers 2


This is probably Bill Brittain's The Wish Giver: Three Tales of Coven Tree (1983).

Cover of The Wish Giver

Three young people, Polly, Rowena and Adam, find a mysterious man at the county fair selling cards for 50 cents each that he claims will grant a wish.

The three mis-aimed wishes are:

  • Polly wishes for people to be happy to see her; she starts croaking like a frog to their amusement,
  • Rowena wishes for a traveling salesman she has a crush on to put down roots; he starts changing into a tree,
  • Adam wishes for his family's farm to have more than enough water; it brings a flood.

The day is saved by the owner of the town's general store, Stewart, who uses his own wish to fix the previous 3.

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    Holy cow, that was fast. Jun 2, 2020 at 20:07

The Wish Giver by Bill Brittain. Published in 1983. From Wikipedia:

The "wish giver" in the title refers to the enigmatic man who gives three children a wish to make their deepest dreams come true, but the wishes are not worded carefully, and go horribly wrong.

The second story is about a girl who wishes for a travelling salesman to 'set down roots' - he eventually becomes a Sycamore.

The third story is about a boy who wants water for his dry farm; he learns to dowse, finds water, but floods the fields.

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