THE PAPER HOUSE by Lois Peterson is a heartwrenching true-to-life middle grade story, full of rich images and description that pulls you right into the world of the novel.
Safiyah’s parents have both died, and her grandmother is very ill. Every time grandmother coughs up blood, Safiyah worries that she will be left all alone with no one to care for her. Hoping to ward off the drafts that sneak in through the cracks in the walls of their hut, Safiyah scours the dump for old magazines. She plans to use the crumpled-up pages to fill the cracks, but when she sees the beautiful pictures in the magazines, she has other ideas. She uses the best pictures to create a mural collage on the outside walls of her hut, carefully cutting and arranging the magazine pictures to create a larger image. This mural catches the attention of a local teacher and paves the way for a better life for Safiyah.
Peterson paints a rich portrait of the Kibera slum, with strong and loveable characters to bring the story to life. With the author note at the end of the book, this novel is the perfect introduction for a young reader to the realities of life in Kenya’s slums and the hardships faced by children like Safiyah.