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Review of Paper Things

jacobson_paper thingsPaper Things
by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Intermediate, Middle School   Candlewick   378 pp.
2/15   978-0-7636-6323-0   $16.99   g

Before her death four years earlier, Ari and Gage’s mother had urged them to “stay together always.” Now it has been two months since nineteen-year-old Gage and eleven-year-old Ari left their overbearing guardian’s home to strike out on their own, and the challenges of finding a permanent job and stable living situation have frayed Gage’s confidence. As for Ari, she hopes to earn a place at Carter, a middle school for gifted students, but as the two scramble night after night for a secure place to stay, enough sleep, clean clothes, and decent food, keeping up with her schoolwork is becoming problematic. Deeply ashamed of their couch surfing and occasional nights in shelters, Ari does her best to present a normal face at school; however, her increasingly disheveled appearance and attempts to avoid detection result in heartless teasing from classmates and hurtful misunderstandings with friends. As the goals of having a real home and attending Carter begin to seem more and more remote, the increasingly emotionally fragile Ari seeks comfort in her Paper Things, an ideal family and their belongings that she’s cut out of catalogs, even though she knows she’s too old for paper dolls. In this poignant view of one child’s experience with homelessness, Jacobson deftly shows how easily it can happen, an insidious downward spiral with heart-wrenching consequences.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Monica Edinger

Monica Edinger, a fourth-grade teacher at the Dalton School in New York City, blogs at Educating Alice and the Huffington Post. She is the author of Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick), illustrated by Robert Byrd.

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