Overview

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...
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The Paper House

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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Southwest Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group
"An unusual story of life in a country that many readers from 4-8th grade would rarely read about. This is a story of struggle, love, and trying to make the best of your circumstances. It is also a story of how a community tries to support each other to survive. An excellent read that will keep readers caring about the characters and wondering what Safiyah is doing with her colorful pieces of paper. You can't help but cheer for Safiyah."
Canadian Children's Book News
"Safiyah is a heroine who through her own actions and passions enables change in her life and in her community, despite the limitations of her situation...Peterson has created a vibrant story full of emotion and descriptive richness, bringing awareness of life in an African slum and the daily struggles for survival that occur there."
CM Magazine
"A wonderful story about the importance of community which will raise awareness about the conditions some people must endure, and how a situation, no matter how dire, can be changed if you really want change. Highly Recommended."
Booklist
"Readers will come away happy for Safiyah and at least a little more aware of conditions in one of the Third World’s more blighted locales."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Despite the dingy setting and omnipresence of poverty in Safiyah's story, this is not a sad tale; it is rather an uplifting story of a girl with pure and unselfish motives learning to trust others and being rewarded for her talent. Not that it glosses over the darker side: Safiyah's struggle is realistically portrayed, and her feelings of desperation and shame thoughtfully depicted. This is a solid and accessible offering for young readers eager to experience life in someone else's shoes."
Children's Literature - Veronica Bartles
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. Reviewer: Veronica Bartles
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—When readers first encounter 10-year-old Safiyah, she is digging through piles of garbage, searching for pictures from old magazines in the Kibera slum just outside Nairobi. These pictures will serve a dual function: plugging the holes in the hut Safiyah shares with her sick grandmother and decorating its outside walls in a mosaic illustrating their family history. Neighbors and friends come together around the mural, telling their own stories of loss and displacement. The mural even attracts the attention of a local teacher, who secures an art scholarship for Safiyah, who has never been able to afford school. Young American readers will identify with many of the protagonist's daily problems (fights with friends, frustration with relatives), while challenges she faces (searching for potable water, finding medical aid for her grandmother) will educate them about life in poverty-stricken Kibera. There is an unfortunate lack of books for young readers about this part of the world, but Peterson's lackluster plotting and underdeveloped characters keep The Paper House from reaching past clichés to begin to fill this void.—Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459800533
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2012
  • Series: Orca Young Readers
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 128
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • File size: 574 KB

Meet the Author

Lois Peterson wrote short stories and articles for adults for twenty years before turning to writing for kids. She was born in England and has lived in Iraq, France and the United States. Recently retired from her job as a librarian, she now lives in Surrey, British Columbia, where she writes, reads and teaches creative writing to adults, teens and children.
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Read an Excerpt

Safiyah stared into the distance. If she looked hard enough, perhaps she could see all the way to her village. If she were a bird, how easy it would be to fly home again.

    But she wasn't a bird. And between here and the home she missed so much were the crowded shacks of the slum and the endless maze of buildings and alleys of Nairobi. Beyond Nairobi were roads that ran in all directions, like dark snakes.

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