Paper Heart (2006), by Arlene Arrington

The premise of this book is sound: the young protagonist is restricted by her mother because of a hereditary heart condition, but eventually learns that the restrictions are unnecessary and the result of her mother’s traumatized response to her husband’s death.  The events, too, are believable as are the protagonist’s emotional responses, voiced through limited omniscient narration—but only if the protagonist is a six-year-old, not the ten-year-old Grade 6 student she is presented as.  The author’s narrative voice is as annoying as the TV cartoon character Caillou, who is supposed to be four but behaves (as my four- and five-year-old children pointed out immediately), like a two-year old.  Children are very attuned to the emotional and intellectual ages of their literary counterparts, and while I would recommend this text, it would only be for the lower grades: Grade 1 through 3. For this age group, it is a great story of standing up for oneself against the powers that are loving but nonetheless overwhelming at times: parents and teachers.  The boundaries between obedience and self-assertion are difficult to establish, and I think Paper Heart teaches, if only a little, how complicated they can be to develop.

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