Joha Makes a Wish



Kimmel, E. A. (2010). Joha Makes a Wish: A Middle Eastern Tale. Tarrytown, NY: Marshal Cavendish Corporation.


On his way to Baghdad, Joha stumbles upon a mysterious jar containing a stick and a note declaring it to be a wishing stick. He immediately wishes for a pair of slippers, but, to his dismay, his worn sandals disappear instead. He is confused and upset by this turn of events and wishes he had a donkey to carry him as a procession of guards pass by. They overhear part of his wish and force him to carry their donkey all the way to Baghdad. His misfortune continues when he is forced to make a wish for the sultan that is turned upside down as well. While running from the sultan’s guard who wish to make him pay for his unfortunate wish, he finds a man who knows how to work a wishing stick. He learns he had been holding the wishing stick upside down, so his wishes were also turned upside down. He fixes his mistakes and ends up with his two original wishes granted while also enacting revenge on the bullying sultan.


Kimmel’s unique take on a traditional folktale uses colorful illustrations to draw the reader into the story of a relatable man who is down on his luck and wants simple wishes to be fulfilled like the desire for a new pair of slippers to protect his feet or a donkey to ease the burden of his travels. It is a classic story of a victim of bullying who enacts revenge on his tormentors. The twist at the end that allows all of Joha’s wishes to come true, even if he didn’t use the stick properly to fix them, seems to subtly imply that his good will, even in the face of a bully, is what leads to life’s true rewards. The second twist with the sultan’s poverty and despair drives home the lesson that bullies never prevail in a very straightforward yet poetic and just way.


From School Library Journal: “Joha’s wishes go awry, thanks to improper use of a magic stick he accidentally finds while walking to Baghdad. Kimmel recasts a Jewish tale from Yemen, borrowing story elements from widespread Middle Eastern folklore featuring the foolish wise man, aka Nasreddin Hodja.”


-Use as a part of a lesson on bullying

-Read as a part of a grouping of folktale picture books:

Raven: A Trickster Tale by Gerald McDermott
Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel
The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop
The Talking Eggs: A Folktale From the American South Robert D. San Souci
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott

-Use as an introduction to the history and culture of the Middle East


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