'A Comb of Wishes' Book Club: Day 1

By: Shanleigh Klassen

All things are within my power if you are willing to pay the price.

Hello and welcome all to the OwlCrate Jr Book Club Read-Along of our February 2021 book pick, A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow. We featured this book in our 'FINDERS KEEPERS' box and we're so excited to dive into this beautiful story about wishes, consequences, and folklore. 

Our reading schedule for this book will be as follows:

  • Monday, March 14 — Chapters 1 - 12
  • Wednesday, March 16 — Chapters 13 - 24
  • Friday, March 18 — Chapters 25 - 36

This averages out to about 50 pages per day from now until Friday. If this is too much to fit into your day, absolutely no worries! Feel free to read at your own pace and come back when you're ready to discuss each section.

Just a reminder that this will be a spoiler discussion for pages 1-87 of A Comb of WishesDiscussion questions are listed below, and anyone who participates in the comments will be entered to win a free OwlCrate Jr box, one per post!

Our Story Begins . . .

We open onto a scene where a sea woman has just realized something precious has been taken. Furious, she heads out to reclaim what is hers.

We’re then introduced to Kela who’s still struggling with her anger and sadness over her mother’s recent and sudden death. Kela runs into her estranged friend Lissy as she combs the shore for sea glass. Kela has been keeping Lissy at arm’s length since her mother’s funeral so while Lissy tries her best to catch up with Kela, Kela is reluctant to play along.

Just then, Kela hears an odd, entrancing sound from a nearby off-limits cave. Ignoring the dangers, Kela enters the cave and discovers a small locked box, which mysteriously stops humming the moment Kela picks it up. As Kela begins to climb out, the tide suddenly rushes in and she falls, losing her bag and injuring herself in the process. Kela’s able to retrieve her bag with the mysterious box inside, and she and Lissy head back to Kela’s home as a huge storm descends upon St. Rita.

Kela’s father is a dive instructor and so follows strict rules about what to leave in the ocean, so she feels guilty about taking the box from the cave. Looking at the now slightly splintered box, Kela wonders if it originally came from one of the many shipwrecks that surround St. Rita, reminding her of the stories her mother used to tell her about the seafolk.

Back in the cold trenches of the ocean, the sea woman named Ophidia sees Kela take her box and slip it into her sack. Ophidia is enraged, but waits, knowing that she’ll have her box returned once the human makes a wish.

The next day, Kela heads to her secret place below the pier of the harbor resort to take another look at the box. The lock suddenly gives way and inside the box is a beautiful, intricately designed white comb.

Touching the comb, Kela suddenly has a vision where she sees a girl underwater, the outline of a boat overhead, as a small, golden light emerges from her mouth. When Kela returns to herself, she realizes there’s real, dangerous magic involved here.

She heads out to see Lissy’s grandmother, Miss Inniss, for some answers. Miss Inniss is the best storyteller on St. Rita, and she recounts a story where an old fisherman who picked up a sea woman's comb. The sea woman offered the man a wish in exchange for her comb. Miss Inniss warns Kela that if the fisherman had not given the comb back, terrible things would have happened to him.

Meanwhile, Ophidia has heard the call of her comb and wonders how best to make her introduction.

Kela now feels a little shaken up, so she and Lissy head out to St. Rita’s College where her mother used to work. Kela’s mother was a story curator, so if there were any other stories about seafolk and their combs, her mother would have notes. They sneak into the Folklore Archives but the only thing of note they find is an old handwritten letter that details a terrible storm back in 1667.

Kela and Lissy are eventually caught by security but are saved by Joyce, a friend that used to work with Kela’s mother. Kela shows Joyce the comb she found, but besides noticing a hairline crack and the letter M carved into the base, Joyce doesn’t know anything more. She warns Kela that something like this is very valuable and needs to be claimed with the Ministry of Culture immediately.

Kela goes back home and remembers the last day when her mother was alive. Kela had been upset with her at the time and had said she hated her. Her mother was in a car accident soon after. Kela confronts her father, and they both agree that not talking about her mother has made things worse between them. Her father wants her to apply for a creative arts program she had shown interest in before her mother’s death, but Kela is unsure.

That night, Kela has a dream. She dreams that a mirror in her room suddenly bursts with water and she's taken into the sea. In an underwater alcove, she meets Ophidia. Ophidia offers to trade a wish for her comb but warns Kela that this magic comes with a cost. The stronger the wish, the deeper the consequence.

Kela accepts, knowing there is only one thing she wants, but worries if she’s brave enough to wish for it.




Discussion Questions:
  1. Ophidia warns Kela that magic comes at a cost. Keeping Ophidia’s warning in mind, what would you wish for if given the chance?

  2. When Miss Inniss tells stories, she finishes by saying “this story is put on you,” and Kela explains that this is because stories live in the ear of the hearer, not the teller. Now that we know this, why do you think Ophidia’s chapters end the same way?

  3. How does Ophidia and the tales of seafolk in A Comb of Wishes compare to other stories of seafolk you know? Is Ophidia very different to other stories you've heard, or is she very similar?

Join us again on Wednesday as we discuss pages 88-160 of A Comb of Wishes!

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