Paper Things

PAPER THINGS

Jennifer Richard Jacobson

When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem — Gage didn’t actually have a place to live. How can Ari keep up with school, her best friend, and middle-school applications when she’s “couch surfing” — a night here with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, a night there with Gage’s girlfriend and her two roommates — and even, when necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

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When forced to choose between staying with her guardian and being with her big brother, Ari chose her big brother. There’s just one problem — Gage didn’t actually have a place to live. How can Ari keep up with school, her best friend, and middle-school applications when she’s “couch surfing” — a night here with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, a night there with Gage’s girlfriend and her two roommates — and even, when necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter? Told in an open, authentic voice, this nuanced story of hiding in plain sight may have readers thinking about homelessness in a whole new way.

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  • Candlewick Press
  • Paperback
  • March 2017
  • 384 Pages
  • 9780763694418

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$8.99

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About Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Jennifer JacobsonJennifer Richard Jacobson is the author of several books for children and young adults, including the middle-grade novel Small as an Elephant and the Andy Shane early chapter books, illustrated by Abby Carter. She lives in Cumberland, Maine.

Author Website

Praise

Social Justice Literature Award for Fiction winner
Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year

“This novel will engender empathy and understanding of a serious and all-too-real problem. Jacobson’s story is poignant but never preachy.”School Library Journal (starred review)

“Jacobson elevates her book beyond ‘problem novel’ territory with an engaging narrator who works hard to be loyal to her brother—and to her mother’s memory. Small moments pack big emotional wallops… A tender exploration of homelessness.”Publishers Weekly

“Powerful… It is well written, with a moving plot, and is told in an authentic voice that pulls the reader in. … Jacobson tells a story that is authentic and relatable to a wide audience of readers. This novel is a definite must-purchase for a library’s collection.”—VOYA

Discussion Questions

1. Gage leaves his home and takes Ari with him. What personality traits lead him to make this decision? Do you think he is a good brother?

2. Which scenes best show Ari’s strengths as a person? Which scenes shed light on her weaknesses? Did the experience of homelessness change her? If so, how?

3. Discuss Ari and Sasha’s friendship. Do you think they will remain best friends? Why or why not?

4. Both family traditions and school traditions are important to Ari. What traditions are important to you? Why?

5. Ari says, “Ever since I can remember, I’ve had this theory that when each person is born, he or she is given an imaginary sack with the same number of happy moments, same number of horrible-news moments, same number of please-let-me-die-now embarrassments” (page 105). What do you think of this theory? Support your argument.

6. Why doesn’t Ari tell others that she and Gage are struggling? What would you have done in her situation?

7. What kind of leadership role would you invent at your school? How would this benefit others?

8. Ari feels extraordinary pressure to get into Carter. Where do you feel pressure to succeed in your life? Is this pressure reasonable?

9. Daniel creates a bucket list. What things would you like to do before you leave your current school?

10. When Ari says that she doesn’t want Carter to think she’s a troublemaker, Daniel replies: “Better than Carter not thinking of you at all.” What does he mean? Do you think that it’s true?

11. If you were to make a wish-plane, what would you fold it from? Why?

12. Is the ending of the story realistic? Would you change the ending in any way? If so, how?