The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee is a stunning and imaginative new picture book about a young boy forced to go to work one evening with his parents. Check out our review of this magical and tender story!
The Paper Kingdom – Our Favorite Book of 2020
What a gorgeous story you’ll find in The Paper Kingdom, hands down our very favorite picture book release of 2020!
Written by Helena Ku Rhee and brilliantly illustrated and brought to life by Pascal Campion, The Paper Kingdom tells the story of one young boy whose parents work in an office building as night janitors.
Though Daniel usually sleeps with a babysitter at his home while his parents work through the night, one evening they must bring him along because Daniel’s aunt cannot watch him. Needless to say, Daniel is not happy to go with his parents. He just wants to stay in his cozy bed in his cozy home!
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Daniel is tired and frustrated when he arrives to the office building. He is sneezy and confused and unbearably bothered by the mess his parents have to clean up.
He wants to go home and go back to sleep.
Daniel just wants to cry.
But this is exactly when the magic begins.
Sensing and understanding his frustrations, Daniel’s parents suddenly take their child on a wondrous adventure. They don’t work in a regular old office building, after all. They work in the “Paper Kingdom,” complete with dragons and kings and thrones!
It is a made-up tale, of course. But it is a story that adds wonder to an otherwise discouraging and upsetting night. Rather than feel anguish at his parents’ circumstances, Daniel’s imagination begins to run wild right along with that of his mom and dad as they look for dragons in the offices, under desks, and in the bathroom.
But that doesn’t mean Daniel doesn’t still allow his frustrations to creep in. It pains him to see the messy office. It upsets him to know that his parents are the ones that must clean it up, even though they didn’t make the mess.
Yet, the experience motivates him. And with his parents’ help, he learns that one day, maybe he can be the king of the Paper Kingdom, too. One day, he may have his own throne that reaches the sky.
The Paper Kingdom Transforms Readers
When The Paper Kingdom concludes, it is clear to readers that Daniel’s experience at his parents’ workplace transformed him. And upon turning the final page, readers are transformed as well.
The Paper Kingdom is a story of family, imagination, and tenderness. It is a story of sacrifice, of the lengths parents go to to better their lives for their children. The Paper Kingdom’s themes are universal in that they show how parents will stop at nothing to ease the burden of challenging circumstances for their kids.
The illustrations add so much depth to the story, filling each page with imaginative details that delight children and make them wonder if the tale Daniel’s parents’ spin is real or imaginative. They get lost in the pages, captivated not just by the words and adventure but also by the glimpses of dragons they see on various pages.
RELATED: We’ve got a fabulous list of kindergarten read-alouds for you on Happily Ever Elephants, so be sure to check them out!
The Paper Kingdom Resonates With Kids of Diverse Backgrounds
When I read The Paper Kingdom with my students at school, many of whom come from very different backgrounds than Daniel and his family, they see their families in these pages nonetheless. Despite their different backgrounds, they find their grownups in Daniel’s. They see the familial love and the ways in which caregivers will go to whatever lengths necessary to ensure their children feel comfortable and safe. They recognize how parents fill children’s lives with wonder in efforts to ease the burden of unpleasant circumstances.
The other part of The Paper Kingdom that resonates with me so deeply is the way it conveys that actions matter.
The way we treat people and leave the world for others matters. This subtle theme runs throughout the story, and it does not go unnoticed. Even young readers recognize the ways in which they can take more accountability for their own actions.
Despite our circumstances, no matter how or where we live, you will be touched by this book and find a connection to your own family and life.
Tender, moving, and unforgettable, we fell in love with this story on the very first read! This is a must have for your collections!