Review / The Paper House

paper-houseBook: The Paper House (2012)
Author: Lois Peterson
Genre: MG, Contemporary

Basic plot: Ten-year-old Safiyah lives in a slum outside of Nairobi, Kenya. She’s too poor to go to school, and it’s up to her to make a living for her and her grandmother. After a day of trash-picking at the local dump, she manages to find a bunch of magazines full of beautiful pictures. They inspire her to create a mural outside her house. And it’s this mural that starts something that will give her the chance at a better life.


1) The setting is Africa. I haven’t read too many books about this, so I found this to be fascinating. I loved how Lois Peterson was able to bring to life Safiyah’s world.

2) I love stories that involve grandmothers. And I love Cucu! She’s all Safiyah has and their relationship is so important.

3) And then there’s Blade, the older boy and leader of the local gang of thugs. Cucu warns Safiyah to stay away from him. He’s a bully and yet… he’s not? It’s confusing. I love how Peterson dealt with this complicated relationship.

4) The whole part about school and how Safiyah wants to go but can’t was one of the more interesting parts of the plot for me. I think kids in my part of the world can sometimes be unexcited by school. It’s good to see a kid who’s denied something we take for granted and how her attitude is so different.

5) Loved the angle on art and Safiyah’s artistic idea for the mural! Even better was the part where her friend tries to help but mangles it, causing a rift between the girls. I loved watching how their friendship goes through highs and lows.


1) It’s a short book at only 108 pages. I wanted it to be longer! (And yet, the length in and of itself isn’t bad. The story is complete as is!)


Loved reading Safiyah’s story about her struggles with living in poverty. But this is such a hopeful book. Don’t let the short length fool you into thinking it’s for the younger crowd.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

14 thoughts on “Review / The Paper House

  1. I read this book several years ago and remember it clearly. I remember the focus on the kids who scrounge the garbage dumps to find things to sell for money. This story is very special thought and I loved the ending.
    I love reading books about Africa. I loved A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. One of my favorite PB is The Rain School by James Rumford. And the Water Princess by Susan Verde.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like a great book! When I read When Stars Are Scattered (a graphic memoir of kids in a refugee camp), I was also struck by how school really is a privilege and not something to take for granted. I also like that the position of Blade in the story is not one-sided. Thanks for the great review!


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