Book Review,  middle grade novels

Book Review: Paper Wishes

Since I’m writing a middle grade novel right now with a tentative title of Sunshine Club, I’ve been trying to read some middle grade novels. I chose Paper Wisheswhich is about the Japanese Internment camps during World War II.

Japanese Internment Camps

Manami, a young Japanese girl, must suddenly move from her island home off the coast of Washington state to a “prison-village.” She has to leave everything she knows, including her dog, Yujiin, to travel with her family to a designated camp. We see this experience through her eyes and as he she tries to reconcile what is happening around her.

Assumptions About Others

Reading this book made me think about prejudice and how we, as humans, tend to make assumptions about people based on the way they look. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and our government and citizens were suspicious, and even afraid, of anyone who even looked Japanese. Since the government didn’t know who might be involved or who might be a spy, all Japanese American citizens were rounded up and sent to these camps. If you looked Japanese, you were rounded up. None of these citizens had any rights. People were motivated by fear and by the unknown to lump all Japanese people into one group: possible spies.

A similar thing happened after 9/11 when people feared all middle eastern people or Muslims and some sought to lump them into the same group: possible terrorists. Fear is a funny thing. It can compel us to do completely unreasonable things just because we are afraid of what we don’t know.

Fear and Prejudice

Does fear cause prejudice? (1. injury or damage resulting from some judgment or action of another in disregard of one’s rights, 2.preconceived judgment or opinion, an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge, an instance of such judgment or opinion, an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics). Or, does prejudice cause fear?

Easy Read With a Deeper Meaning

The book is an easy read but its simple language and sentence structure carries a deeper meaning. What would it be like to be an American citizen suddenly stripped of your rights? Suddenly thrust from your home? Gathered with others for the simple reason that you look like them? How often do we now do the same thing: gather people together in groups, literally or figuratively, simply because they look a certain way?

I enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone who wants to experience a Japanese internment camp from a child’s perspective.

You can purchase Paper Wishes here.

Read my review of Out of My Mind.

Read my review of America’s First Daughter.

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Back cover copy:

A moving debut middle-grade 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.

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family’s life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It’s 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her and her grandfather’s dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat and gets as far as the mainland before she is caught and forced to abandon Yujiin. She and her grandfather are devastated, but Manami clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn’t until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can reclaim the piece of herself that she left behind and accept all that has happened to her family.

Paper Wishes
by Lois Sepahban is a heartrending middle-grade novel and piece of historical fiction set during World War II about love, longing, and a girl who finally finds her voice.

“It’s a novel that stays, bravely, in that place of pain, making clear that scars will be left behind not only for the children whose families were incarcerated, but also for the generations that follow. And yet, although the tone is sober and sad, it’s also a ­novel in which a mute child finds her voice, ­at last.” ―The New York Times

Purchase Paper Wishes here.

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