Manami is only ten when World War II disrupts her life on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. The government has decided that she and her family might not be loyal to the United States because of their Japanese heritage, and they are forced to relocate to one of the internment camps set up to imprison them.
Once there, she quits speaking, overcome by having to leave her dog behind after trying to smuggle him onto the train. In their own ways, she and her family adjust to the new life, but always, always, losing her dog comes back to haunt her.
Paper Wishes is a particularly well-timed book. Being in the middle of a political campaign means that we are constantly hearing about who we are as Americans – and in some camps also who isn’t a real American or truly loyal. For younger readers, it’s a vivid reminder of bad decisions we’ve made to punish whole groups of people because of their supposed beliefs or culture.
If you’re particularly interested in this topic, there are several newer books which revolve in some way around the World War II internment camps. The Train to Crystal City by Jan Jarboe Russell is a fascinating nonfiction read for adults. Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo, and Kirby Larson’s Dash are both wonderful for young readers in very different ways. Echo weaves together several interrelated stories; Dash focuses on a girl and her dog (as does Paper Wishes). Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas also tells a fictionalized version of life in the camps.
Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban