Yuna feels too Korean in America and too American in Korea. So, she folds 1,000 paper stars and wishes for a world where she fits. The problem is something terrible happens after she makes the wish, and another thousand stars might not be enough to fix it.
Yuna is a Korean American girl who feels out of place at her middle school, including with her own friends. Even the other Korean American kids, like her friend Esther, are more American and accepted at school than Yuna. Esther is a “cool Asian” who speaks to her parents in English and eats school lunches rather than a Korean boxed lunch. Yuna is embarrassed by her mom’s boxed lunches and wants to buy lunch at school like everyone else.
If Yuna can’t fit in as an American, maybe she could be someone else who belongs in Korea. So, she wishes for this change after folding 1,000 paper stars and collecting them in a big jar to make a wish. Yuna and her family return to Korea, but things don’t unfold as she had hoped. They go to Korea because her halmoni (grandmother) passes away, and Yuna thinks she made it happen because of her wishing stars. She blames herself and is full of guilt. Now, Yuna needs to fold another 1,000 paper stars by midnight to wish Halmoni back to life before her soul is gone forever. She lashes out at her parents and younger sister, especially when her sister gets some of the star paper wet. With less than four hours left until midnight, Yuna is desperate to finish enough stars to wish Halmoni back.
A Sky of Papers Stars is clear and organized in its art style. There is a regular font for the parts in Korean, a bolded font for English lines, and italics for the characters’ thoughts. The present-day artwork is bright and colorful with outlined panels. Several scenes set in the past are lighter and resemble pastels or sepia tones. Some have lined panels, and some fade out or blur around the edges. These distinctions make it clear between the past and present. The colors help you feel Yuna’s mood and what she’s thinking about. For instance, there’s a burst of red and orange in the background when Yuna yells at her mom about the homemade lunches, or there are cool, pale shades of blue when Halmoni is on her mind. Jen Wang’s Stargazing is an example of a middle grade graphic novel with a similar writing and art style.
A Sky of Papers Stars includes two central themes: wanting to belong or feeling out of place and grief after the death of a family member. The story and writing style are clear and straightforward, even with the flashbacks to Yuna’s distant memories of Halmoni or Mom reminiscing about her own school lunches. These themes may not be new, but they’re still a much-needed aspect of coming-of-age narratives, especially for marginalized youth who feel separation or alienation from other kids.
If you’re interested in expanding your library’s collection of middle grade graphic novels, this one is definitely worth considering. The Korean and Korean American characters are well-represented, and the book explores significant coming-of-age topics like identity, loss, and grief. If you believe a reader would benefit from When You Trap A Tiger by Tae Keller, they would probably benefit from A Sky of Paper Stars too.
A Sky of Paper Stars Vol.
By Susie Yi
Macmillan Roaring Brook, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Korean-American,
Character Representation: Korean-American,