Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban first came to may attention at the Macmillan breakfast I attended at the ALA meeting in Boston. It really isn’t a dog book. The dog in the book disappears early, when the protagonist, Manami, is forced to leave him behind as her family is “relocated” from their home on Bainbridge Island to Manzanar Internment Camp.
Although it is set during the early months of incarceration when Manami has become mute from the trauma, not so much because of the internment, although that certainly plays a part. No, Manami is haunted by guilt because, her dog Yujin was supposed to be left behind. Neighbors were going to come by later to pick him up and give him a new home. But Manami couldn’t bear to see him left behind and tries to sneak him along. When Yujin is discovered, he is crated and Manami’s last view of him is in a crate at a railway station. She is obsessively worried about what became of him and sends him messages on papers she lets fly in the winds of Manzanar.
Although Sepahban is not Japanese-American, she sensitively portrays the internment, which is really the vehicle for the story of a traumatized child who finds her voice. And it is Manami’s voice, Sepahban’s poetically sparse language, that is the star of this book. It is a style reminiscent of Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan.
This is an excellent story for 3rd – 5th grade readers and would be a fantastic introduction to the history of Japanese-American internment.