Title: Paper Wishes
Author: Lois Sepahban
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Raincoast for this ARC!
I seem to be a magnet for books about young girls and their dogs. Authors who write these kinds of books and I always seem to connect instantly, and Lois Sepahban’s book is not exception. Mind you, this book also focuses on the Japanese internment camps, something I admit, I knew about, but didn’t entirely understand the lengths of.
This book is simple, if beautiful written. It looks at the story of a girl who is whisked away from her normal life and thrown into an internment camp due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Many Japanese families are forced into these camps under levels of suspicion, but when our heroine Manami is torn away from Yujiin her dog, let’s just say I bawled.
Then when other dogs started to hang about the camp, yet Manami was still dreaming of Yujiin, I bawled again.
Manami’s simple narrative carries the reader through this rough historical period in a way that is very honest and quite blunt. You get a sense that her innocence has been completely lost, and all she has now to gain is experience. She’s so young to have her innocence taken from her due to the threats of war, but you understand (as she does) that there is more than meets the eye in her current situation.
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 felt for Manami and her family, but mostly I spent a lot of the book just wishing and hoping that Manami and Yujiin would be reunited.
Paper Wishes is a beautiful and melancholy novel. It doesn’t ask a lot of the reader, but it wants to paint the picture of displacement in a way that many can understand. I highly recommend this book if you love learning about Japanese history or you want a touching middle grade tale.