April 12, 2016

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Laura's Bookshelf: PAPER WISHES

Happy Poetry Friday. We are Broadway bound this week!

The *STAR*
of this week's Poetry Friday production
is Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

One of the best parts about being a debut novelist has been connecting with other children's and YA authors in the class of 2016. We’ve had a great time sharing each other’s Advanced Reader’s Copies (ARCs). Among my favorite books so far is the historical middle grade novel PAPER WISHES, by Lois Sepahban.

PAPER WISHES is available for pre-order.
“What does a historical middle grade novel have to do with Broadway?” you may ask. I shall reveal all.
I read Lois’s book in September. It is the story of Manami, whose family is forced to relocate to a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Manami focuses much of her grief on the loss of her dog, Yujiin, whom she feels guilty about leaving behind. The dusty camp and prison-like living conditions physically and psychologically cause Manami to stop speaking. 
I found this character’s spare first-person voice to be poetic and deeply moving -- her halting inner monologue reflects Manami’s reluctance to speak out loud about her pain and fears. PAPER WISHES is a beautiful book about a dark period in American history.
Not long after I finished PAPER WISHES, my friend and fellow musical theater lover Timanda Wertz and I had tickets to see a new musical in New York City. ALLEGIANCE is about ... a Japanese American family that is relocated to a World War II era internment camp. 
I have been following this show’s journey to Broadway for several years. It is the creative brainchild of actor George Takei, whose family was relocated to an internment camp when he was five. (Read about it in this NY Times article.) Takei is one of the stars of the show.
What serendipity to have Lois' wonderful book fresh in my mind when Timanda and I went to see this play. I nearly flipped out: the first big number is about writing wishes on slips of paper and releasing them into the wind! There were so many echoes between Manami’s story and this big Broadway musical: the connection to family, people making gardens and growing their own food in the camps, and how baseball became an outlet for young people there.
We had a great trip to New York, I finally met my editor and, for the first time in my life, I waited outside the backstage door for autographs.

PAPER WISHES is available in January. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:
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. 
PAPER WISHES is a middle grade novel, appropriate for third grade through middle school. Younger children may enjoy it as a read aloud. Either way, be prepared to answer a lot of questions.
In this time, when our country is debating the definition of citizenship and whether we have enough empathy for war victims to provide them refuge, PAPER WISHES is an important book to read with children.
Who will like it?
  • History buffs.
  • Readers who are interested in (or living) bi-cultural or first generation experiences.
  • Kids who will recognize the strong bond Manami has with her grandfather.
  • Groups who want a safe platform for discussing a complicated moral issue like xenophobia.

What will readers learn about?
  • What it was like to live in a Japanese internment camp. 
  • How to cope with loss, grief, and racism.
  • Hope is possible, even in the most difficult circumstances.

The poem I'm pairing with PAPER WISHES isn’t officially a poem. Instead, here are the opening lines from the song “Gaman,” which is featured in ALLEGIANCE.

“Gaman” from Allegiance
Words and Music by Jay Kuo

Gaman is a word to be spoken and heard
In this place where each face tells a story of pain.
Gaman we must say as we get through each day
We will bear any nightmare with a simple refrain.
Gaman. Gaman. Sturdy and sure. Keep faith and endure.
Gaman. Gaman. Hold your head high. Carry on. Gaman.

Learn more about the Japanese word “Gaman,” and listen to amazing Lea Salonga singing the song (<3 and="" has="" history.="" in="" insights="" into="" lea="" moment="" musical="" nbsp="" o:p="" salonga="" she="" some="" the="" this="" u.s.="" video.="" wonderful="">


mirrorsandmagicfrogs said...

Okay 1.) I want to see it again and 2.) I hope the cast recording comes out soon. :)

Julie said...

I've been thinking a lot about the internment camps this week, Laura, since the mayor of Roanoke, David Bowers, made his outrageous comments about them ("Better safe than sorry" - what???) when talking about turning away Muslim refugees in America. The play looks beautiful; I hope it comes to Seattle. And I look forward to reading PAPER WISHES. thanks for such a thought-provoking post!

Linda B said...

How wonderful that this book is coming soon, and that the play has opened. I hope that many see it and that it reminds them of that time, connects with the words being said today of mistrust because on a certain "allegiance'. I've enjoyed hearing about all these new books your 'class of 16' have coming out, Laura. Thanks for the thoughts, and happy you got to go backstage!

jama said...

What a wonderful post. Loved hearing about PAPER WISHES and your attending Allegiance! Such perfect timing. Nice to see and hear Lea Salonga again. Saw her in "Miss Saigon" ages ago.

author amok said...

Posting for Jan Annino Godown of the blog BOOKSEEDSTUDIO (

Appreciations for sharing both the musical/poem news & the MG author debut review for PAPER WISHES. Thanks for the Allegiance video.

Last night my husband & I, at a library Holocaust discussion group, found that our concentration camps of First Nation removal came up - where American Indian/Native Americans were sent. We then shifted to the domestic WWII camps as PAPER WISHES & the play illuminate.

Your timely post dovetails with what many are pondering.

Bridget Hodder said...

These are beautiful treatments of such sad and frightening subject matter. I'm looking forward to the book and the play. Thanks for this lovely post.

Unknown said...

Interesting how easily we can leap to (inaccurate) conclusions. When I saw the title "Paper Wishes," I immediately thought of Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. So glad you have highlighted a different book and play; so sorry, as others have commented, that such interment-realities continue to have current relevance...Thanks again. God bless you!

Diane Mayr said...

I, too, have been following George Takei's journey in getting "Allegiance" to the stage. Perhaps it will come to Boston?

Speaking of internment camps, not only were Japanese-Americans locked away, so were some Italian-Americans! It is horrifying what some have suggested we do, after the terrorist attacks this past week. Are we so ignorant that we don't learn from our earlier mistakes? And the speed at which some are willing to act on their impulses is stunning.

Anonymous said...

Laura, Thank you for introducing me to PAPER WISHES. I am definitely going to read it. We need books like this to remind people that it should not happen again. I am hoping I have opportunity to see ALLEGIANCE as well.