A Sky of Paper Stars

Roaring Brook. Sept. 2023. 240p. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781250843883; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781250843890.
Gr 4-7–Middle schooler Yuna, born in America to Korean parents, struggles with feeling too Korean to fit in with her American peers at school. Frustrated with her fractured life and desperate to fit in, Yuna makes a wish on paper stars to return to Korea so she might feel normal somewhere. When the unexpected death of her halmoni (grandmother) makes Yuna’s wish come true, Yuna is wracked with guilt and feels more fragile than ever as she realizes she also feels too American to fit in with her extended Korean family. As her family prepares to bury her halmoni, Yuna has to race the clock to fold more stars and undo her wish before her halmoni is gone forever. Color is expertly used to indicate time and perspective: bluewashed illustrations indicate Yuna’s memories, yellow for her umma’s or cousin’s, and a vibrant full-color palette for the present. Most panels rely on modest but expressive illustrations and color blocking or otherwise minimalist design to move the story forward to great effect, and the use of paper as a connective thread and metaphor throughout is powerful. The preface includes a note about the use of font styles to represent Korean and English language as well as thoughts. Back matter includes directions on how to fold paper stars and an author’s note on the inspiration behind the story, which notes it is based on true events. Most characters are Korean or Korean American, while most school peers are white.
VERDICT A stirring look at the grief that comes from loss, distance, and a feeling of disconnect.

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