Friday, November 2, 2012

The Paper House by Lori Peterson

Life is hard for ten-year-old Safiyah in the Kibera slum outside Nairobi. Too poor to go to school, she makes a meager living for herself and her grandmother Cucu by selling things she finds at the garbage dump. After using scavenged paper to fix up the inside of the hut, Safiyah starts a mural on the outside. As word of the paper house spreads, Safiyah begins to take pride in her creation. When Cucu collapses after a fire, Safiyah stays at the hospital to help care for her grandmother. While Safiyah is away, her friend Pendo works on the mural, which upsets Safiyah. But when Pendo attracts media attention to the paper house, Safiyah and her grandmother are given a chance of a better life. -- Silver Birch Express 2013 Nominee

This was a pleasant quick read which served as a topical introduction to social issues and justice for young readers.  Peterson manages to humanize the concept of poverty and the real concerns of a child in the third world without becoming overbearing to young readers.  This is a story that explores the value of family, community, creativity and determination and the triumph of hope in difficult circumstances.   I can easily see this book being used to start a classroom discussion on the challenges children face in other countries, from hunger, safety, education and sickness as well as connecting themes of family, cooperation, friendship, and helping others.

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