Title: PAPER WISHES
Author: Lois Sepahban
Genre: Historical Middle-grade
Publish date: January 5, 2016
Blurb: A moving debut novel about a girl whose family is relocated to a Japanese internment camp during World War II–and the dog she has to leave behind.
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5
I had the immense privilege of reading an ARC of PAPER WISHES in exchange for my honest review. But I want to warn you before you pick up this book—which you will, if you know what’s good for you—to have a big pile of tissues ready.
I don’t make these kinds of statements lightly. Over the course of this wee little novel, I sobbed probably five or six times—big, gulping sobs, the kind that sends big, fat, raindrop-tears streaming down your face like Alice about to drown herself. That kind of sobbing.
But I am probably the prime target audience for this novel: I’m a Dog Person with capital letters, and I have always found the story of Japanese internment in America—and the way in which we gloss over it in our history books—particularly compelling and heartbreaking.
Our heroine, ten-year-old Manami, loses her ability to speak after the family dog, Yuujin, is taken from her. Understandably! The responsibility of having lost her grandfather’s beloved pet racks Manami with intense guilt. After relocating, the family is living only on what they could fit into their suitcases. Packed in close with hundreds of other strangers, tension rises among the camp’s population. Manami’s only refuge is her kind, empathetic school teacher, who encourages her to paint her feelings onto paper to express what she cannot express with words.
But it’s really Minami’s best friend, Kimmi, who kept this novel from breaking me into a thousand tiny pieces. Kimmi relentlessly understands what Manami is going through, and why she can’t speak; Kimmi never demands, or stifles, or encroaches on the space Manami so clearly needs. I love a good female friendship story, and PAPER WISHES delivers.
With simplistic, and yet gorgeously poetic prose, Sepahban weaves an emotional story of artistic discovery—and self discovery—against the backdrop of one of the lowest moments in American history. She navigates family turmoil with aplomb.
But most importantly, PAPER WISHES is a novel about how hard it is to forgive—especially to forgive one’s self.
A delight for readers of any age, but ideal for middle-grade readers, classrooms, and history curriculums, PAPER WISHES is a novel that will get readers thinking, and wanting to know more about this dark period in our past.