Review: Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to America

Paper Son: Lee's Journey to AmericaPaper Son: Lee’s Journey to America by Helen Foster James

Sleeping Bear Press: MI (2013)

ISBN13: 9781585368334

This is a lovely book exploring the experiences of one fictional boy coming from China to become the “paper son” his parents paid for. Although I liked the picture book in general, the pace felt rushed for the format and without pre-teaching, students will not understand the significance of the location or context of the events. This will likely leave K-3 students with a lack of character development and little understanding of the motivations and underlying influences that move the actions of the characters along. The illustrations by Wilson Ong are beautiful but I would have appreciated one or two similar to the last image, showing the characters in identifiable locations as a visual aid for young readers. Overall, this book could be a valuable part of any classroom library when used in conjunction with non-fiction  titles and resources to provide background information and context. There is a somewhat useful explanation of Angel Island at the end of the book, but overall the lack of bibliography and other media to link the story to primary sources prevents it from being a stand-alone resource.

Quantitative: ATOS 3.6

Qualitative: Lower grades K-3 picture book.

Content Area: History: US – Chinese Immigration; State – California – Chinese Immigration

Common Core Standards: RL.k.1, RL.k.3, RL.k.6; RL.1.1-RL.1.3, RL.1.7;

Additional/Digital Resources:

Li Keng Wong’s immigration story narrative:

Angel Island – California State Park website:

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