A review by Annie Cronin Romano
Set over a ten-month span during World War II, Lois Sepahban's PAPER WISHES follows ten-year-old Manami and her family as they are uprooted from their home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, to the Manzanar Japanese relocation camp in California. Manami is devastated by this move, particularly when her beloved dog, Yujiin, is not allowed to go with them. The emotional trauma of the move and internment causes Manami to go mute. Unable to verbally communicate, Manami turns to drawing and painting as a means of expressing herself. In her efforts to bring Yujiin back to her family, Manami sends some of her artwork up into the winds in the form of paper lanterns, hoping Yujiin will sense her wishes and find her again.
Sepahban thoughtfully and vividly depicts the confinement of Japanese-American families through Manami’s eyes. Told in the first person, PAPER WISHES skillfully captures Manami’s fears and hopes while strikingly depicting the pride and beauty of her family’s traditions, commitment to one another and, ultimately, Manami’s bravery. PAPER WISHES, a middle grade novel for children ages 9-12, unfolds like a fan into a rich canvas of devotion and courage. Do not let PAPER WISHES pass you by!
Lois Sepahban delves into the tensions of wartime mistrust with tenderness and spare yet vividly poetic language. The novel is structured so that each chapter depicts one month, beginning with March and ending in December. The great emotional distance travelled by Manami and her family during this time is conveyed brilliantly by Sepahban, and the pacing is well-balanced and engaging. Sepahban illuminates this important, morally disturbing event in America’s history with delicacy and emotional depth.
For more information on Lois Sepahban’s work, visit her website at www.loissepahban.com.
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