Paper Wishes (ARC Novel) | Book Review

Author: Lois Sepahban

Genre: Historical fiction, grade school

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Publication Date: January 2016


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.

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 dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat, but she is caught and forced to abandon him. She is devastated but 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 accept all that has happened to her family.


Thank You to Raincoast Books for sending me this in exchange for an honest review.

Everything about this gorgeous, lyrical, heartbreaking story is a work of art — starting with the spare yet evocative cover. Like the main character Manami, Lois Sepahban draws a moving picture of grief, resilience, and ultimately strength.

PAPER WISHES is a close-up portrait of Manami and her family, at the same time a big picture of the wider Japanese American community during World War II. With sparse, beautiful language and meaningful detail, the author allows us to experience layers of emotion in small moments of beauty like a quiet tea ceremony, as well as long struggles of resilience such as the family’s ongoing commitment to tending a garden in the desert.

PAPER WISHES explores the very dark time in American history when Japanese Americans were taken from their homes and forced into internment camps. It is clear that Sepahban has researched this time period extensively as evidenced by the story itself and the author’s note that follows. After finishing, I think young readers will search out other books that further explore this time. I did learn quite a bit while reading this book, as I researched a lot of the events and locations mentioned in this book online. Since this is something most history classes skim over, I did not know many details regarding what had transpired during this time frame. Hopefully this book encourages other readers to do the same.

Manami’s journey is not an easy one; it’s full of obstacles, emotions and situations that are a challenge to those who are far older than her. However, through Sepahban’s careful guidance, Manami and her family’s journey ultimately becomes testaments to the strength of the human spirit, and a reminder to the future.

This book beautifully illustrates family, companionship between a girl and her dog, friendship, and it does it all in a way that is both easy, yet powerful to read. This book is so short, yet it packs such a large, hard hitting punch. It makes you come to terms with how history has a way of displacing people and making them feel like even if they are innocent of a crime, the world doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

I highly recommend Paper Wishes for MG fans, both young and old. I also strongly recommend this book for educators and parents who are looking for historical fiction that can help begin to educate readers on the not-so-often told stories of WWII.

Don’t forget to check out this book when it is published in January 2016!

-Read On Darlings!



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