Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak (Groundwood Books, 2004) is about the children of the war-torn Middle East. Deborah Ellis, author of the enormously popular Breadwinner trilogy, turns her attention from the children of Afghanistan to the children of Israel and Palestine, presenting their stories based on interviews done in the winter of 2002 while in Israel and Palestine.
Challenges in Canada
2006 — In Ontario, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) urged public school boards to deny access to this children’s non-fiction book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to students in the elementary grades. The CJC said that Ellis had provided a flawed historical introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The CJC also said that some children in the book portrayed Israeli soldiers as brutal, expressed ethnic hatred and glorified suicide bombing. The effect on young student readers, the CJC said, was “toxic.”
Although the Ontario Library Association (OLA) had recommended Three Wishes to schools as part of its acclaimed Silver Birch reading program, and although schoolchildren were not required to read the book, at least five school boards in Ontario set restrictions on the text:
The District School Board of Niagara encouraged librarians to steer students in Grades 4–6 away from Three Wishes and to tell parents that their children had asked for the book.
The Greater Essex County District School Board restricted access to the book to students in Grade 7 or higher.
The Toronto District School Board restricted access to the book to students in Grade 7 or higher and withdrew the book from school library shelves.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board refused to stock the book and refused to provide copies to students who asked for it.
In 2005, before the CJC made its views about Three Wishes public, the York Regional District School Board also withdrew the book from the Silver Birch program.
Protests by the OLA, The Writers’ Union of Canada, PEN Canada and the Association of Canadian Publishers failed to persuade the school boards to repeal their restrictions.