Not all families settle in at night and go to sleep. Some have to go to work. In The Paper Kingdom, Daniel’s parents are night janitors at an office building.
The Paper Kingdom opens with Daniel sleeping in a one room apartment. His mother cooks at the stove while his father reads nearby. Aunt Clara calls to say she can’t watch Daniel that night. The parents have no choice. Daniel must wake up and go to work with them.
The office building looks dark and foreboding at night. Daniel is afraid to enter. But work is waiting for them inside.
Daniel’s parents begin picking up the paper that’s strewn about the floor. They vacuum, mop and dust. Daniel wonders who leaves the place so messy. He asks why his parents have to clean up after other people.
Mama and Papa entertain Daniel’s question with an imaginative explanation. They pretend they work in a kingdom. Dragons are responsible for the disaster. When Daniel wants to find the dragons and tell them to clean up their mess, Papa explains that only the king can do that. “Someday you’ll have to be king! Then you can sit in the throne room and tell the dragons to be nice and neat.”
The Paper Kingdom is based on a true story. Author Helena Ku Rhee’s parents cleaned a lawyers office at night when she was young. When babysitters were not available, Rhee went to work with her parents. They entertained Rhee by making up funny stories about the messy people.
The engaging artwork brings to light the people who work while we sleep. Readers will wonder about the family. They may consider the people that clean their school at night. Like Daniel, they might question why someone should have to clean up after them. The lesson in The Paper Kingdom will inspire readers to leave no trace before heading home.
AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Inquire/Think I.A.1 Learners display curiosity and initiative by formulating questions about a personal interest or a curricular topic.
In this lesson, learners will wonder about the author and compose interview questions to research.
Invite learners to gather information from the book cover. Ask what they can expect to read after looking for clues.
Point to the author’s name. Show learners Helena Ku Rhee’s headshot on the back flap. Explain that The Paper Kingdom is based on her family.
Tell learners to imagine Rhee will join them after they read the story. They can ask her anything they want. Invite readers to record their questions while you read. Include the Author’s Note in your reading.
Review interview questions with learners. Watch A Special Evening with Author Helena Ku Rhee from WISH Charter School. Learners will enjoy finding answers to their questions by watching this wonderful presentation. Rhee talks about The Paper Kingdom during the first 33 minutes.
Listen to Helena Ku Rhee and Pascal Campion talk about The Paper Kingdom with NPR.