FRIDAY BOOK SHARING!
What are you reading?
This past week I read a wonderful new middle grade novel, Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban, just published in January 2016. It is the story of Manami, a ten year old girl with a quiet peaceful life in Bainbridge Island, Washington whose family is moved to Manzanar, the Japanese-American internment camp in California during World War II. Suddenly, life is very different from young Manami. Manzanar is not what the family expected, but they try to make the best of this situation. But this is especially difficult for Manami, who is not allowed to bring her beloved dog Yujiin. Though she tries to hide him, the soldiers discover Yujiin and force Manami to let him go – and with this moment, her ability to speak disappears. Without Yujiin, she is heartbroken. Her family tries to help her, encouraging her and trying to be positive, but the situation is bleak. They know that it is unlikely that Manami will see Yujiin again.
Though Manzanar is a sad, desolate place, this is a book of hope. In telling Manami’s story, Sepahban focuses on the power of voice and identity, showing the courage and bravery of Manami’s words. Manami loses her voice when she enters the camp, but she doesn’t break. She is surrounded and supported by those who love her. She sees the possibilities all around her, finding beauty and art in unexpected places. She expresses her feelings through art and develops an important relationship with her teacher. She silently forges friendships. She finds her voice again and she uses her words at a powerful moment, showing that she will not be broken, that she will be strong and brave and true.
Sepahban’s prose is beautiful – almost poetry – with language that is layered with meaning. This made it a joy for me to read. I just couldn’t wait to see what beautiful line would catch my attention next. Readers will find many favorites and I am already imagining the classroom conversations about Manami. There are so many possibilities for this book in the classroom. After finishing the book, I found myself thinking about text sets and Manzanar information that could be used in conjunction with Paper Wishes to help students learn about this period in history. Definitely a book that is a welcome addition to the classroom library as well as the home library. Five stars! Head over to Lois Sepahban’s website for more about her books.