Inspired by her own upbringing, Helena Ku Rhee (The Turtle Ship) crafts a layered, loving picture book tribute to family and the sacrifices that parents make for their children's future. In The Paper Kingdom, Daniel's mother and father work overnight in a big glass building downtown; when the babysitter cancels, Daniel has to go with them. The tired boy witnesses how they are the only ones cleaning the large office filled with paper, and complains about the injustice of it all. In order to divert his attention, the adults concoct a fanciful tale about dragons, kings and queens. " 'The Paper Kingdom,' Papa said. 'Didn't we tell you before? This is the land of the Paper King!' "
This seemingly simple story illuminates the grueling work--often by marginalized, overworked and underpaid people with families--that goes unseen. Rhee adeptly works in the fairy tale realm, while text and illustrations shed light on the parents' arduous labor. Their expressions often belie the cheery conversations they have with Daniel; readers will see the effort they're making to engage their son and complete their work--a complicated and difficult endeavor. Pascal Campion's (Good Morning City) blurry lines and the watercolor-like shadows that follow the characters bring to mind the parallel world of kings and queens. Splashes of red throughout hint at the red dragons of Daniel's imaginings, and Campion peppers his jewel-tone illustrations with floating sheets of paper, adding to the entrancing picture book's whimsy. The affection that exists within the family is obvious, especially in the warm, glowing images that fill the pages. --Shelley Diaz, supervising librarian, BookOps: New York Public Library & Brooklyn Public Library