My Paper House

The Paper House9781459800519_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg.My Paper House

Lois Peterson, Author

Orca Young Readers, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for ages: 8-11

Themes: Nairobi, Garbage Dump, Poverty, Survival, Love, Hope

Opening: “Safiyah stood ankle-deep in garbage near the top of the dump. Below her lay the Kibera slum, a patchwork of rusty tin roofs. A thick blanket of cloud and dirty smoke hid the concrete buildings and busy road of nearby Nairobi.”

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Safiyah dreams of going to school like her best friend, Pendo. She wants to learn to read and write and wear a school uniform. But going to school isn’t possible, because Safiyah can’t pay the tuition. Her mother is dead and she lives with her sick Cucu (grandmother) in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. Safiyah earns money from the items she finds in the dump and sells them on the streets so she can buy food and help her Cucu. On one of her scavenger trips to the dump, Safiyah finds a stack of magazines with beautiful pictures of things and places she’s never seen. She uses some of the pages to fill in holes inside their tin hut. The magazines inspire her to create something very beautiful that draws attention to her talents and a way to pursue her dreams.

Why I like this book: Lois Peterson has written an uplifting story about a very strong and determined girl who finds a way to survive the slums of Nairobi and still hold onto her dreams. It is also a realistic story about how a community comes together to support each other during times of dire need. There is also an element of suspense as readers wonder what Safiyah will do with her pictures. The ending is creative and unexpected. This is an important book for children to learn about the challenging lives of very poor children in other parts of the world. I appreciate this book because Peterson brings awareness to the lives of children living in Nairobi slums.

Resources: Visit Lois Peterson at her website.  This is an excellent classroom book.  Teachers will especially want to click on “For Kids” for resources and activities to use with The Paper House in class She also has a video trailer.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

26 thoughts on “My Paper House

  1. The slums around Nairobi are dreadful places. This has inspired me to write something for my blog tomorrow. I will mention this book and your blog Patricia. I know first-hand how children comb the dumps looking for things that, to us, are rubbish, but to them, are a treasure trove with value in everything. It is one of the most heartbreaking things to see children living on rubbish dumps.


    • Wow! Why don’t you write a children’s book about the experiences you had when you were with Oxfam and other organizations. Incredible. I will look forward to reading your blog tomorrow. Yes, it struck me that the combing the garbage dumps for treasures was risky abd filthy. Would imagine there is a lot to make a child ill. You get a sense of that in this young reader. But, it is written for age 8-11.


  2. Pat, thanks so much for reviewing this book. It seems like it might not just bring awareness, but maybe some sensitivity to kids, like my own, who are not fully aware of the hardships other kids face in trying to get a good education. Will definitely buy this one! Great review!


    • Robin, I’m happy you enjoyed the review. I think it is an excellent book to introduce younger kids to the hardships for other kids living in different parts of the world. Make sure you check out Peterson’s guide.


  3. This book sounds so sad, but, guessing from the summary, it has a happy ending. I hope so. It is the kind of books kid like me should read. I just checked, the library doesn’t have this. Mom said we can get a copy and donate it after I am done reading it.


  4. Stories that feature kids overcoming great obstacles subtly teach kids thaey are capable. What a great message. I love the multicultural aspect as well as the exposure to lifestyles to which American kids have little exposure.


  5. It’s so sad that most kids in poor places can’t ever achieve their potential. Thanks for highlighting this uplifting book.


  6. Fabulous. I have worked with families/children living on the dumps in Antananarivo in Madagascar, it is heartbreaking. Great to see a MG novel highlighting these realities but giving hope.


    • I can imagine it would be heartbreaking. What I like about this book is that it is short, 108 pages, and meant for younger students. You have a treasure of story ideas in you from all of your journeys.


  7. I am so pleased you reviewed Lois Peterson’s wonderful book. I was very impressed with how the tale was told. Although the main character lived a life quite different from most children in North America, she still had the same feelings, hopes and dreams of all children. This is a great book for the classroom and at home.


    • I am so happy you liked this book. Safiya, is just like any other child with hopes and dreams. There is a wonderful study guide for the classroom. I liked that book is targeted towards younger children.


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