A Sky of Paper Stars

by Susie Yi (Author) Susie Yi (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

A Sky of Paper Stars is a heartrending middle-grade graphic novel by Susie Yi about a girl's ill-fated wish to fit in, perfect for readers of Stargazing and Pashmina.

All Yuna wants is to belong. She wants to go to sleepovers, have a smart phone, and go to summer camp--just like her friends in middle school. Furious at her Umma for never packing her a "normal" American lunch, they get into yet another fight. Out of options and miserable, Yuna remembers a legend that her grandma, Halmoni, told her. If you fold 1,000 paper stars, you will be granted one wish.

When she reaches 1,000 paper stars, Yuna wishes for her family to move back to Korea, where she can finally be normal. Seconds later: a knock at her door. It's her sister with devastating news. Halmoni has died and they must go back to Korea to attend the funeral. Yuna knows this is all her fault. As her guilt builds, her body begins to turn into paper. Yuna realizes she must undo her wish and bring her Halmoni back--or turn into paper forever.

Wholly heartbreaking and with light touches of magic realism, A Sky of Paper Stars is a captivating graphic novel about identity, family, and the love that can bridge generations.

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Publishers Weekly

A Korean American tween grapples with the ill-fated consequences of a wish in Yi's tear-jerking speculative debut, a graphic novel loosely inspired by her experiences. Yuna wishes she fit in more with her American classmates; worried that eating traditional Korean foods will separate her further from her peers, she throws away the lunches that her mother packs for her. In a flashback rendered in monochromatic blues, Yuna recalls making paper stars with her grandmother, Halmoni, who tells Yuna that if she gathers 1,000 paper stars in a jar, she can make a wish on them that will come true. In full-color present-day, after Yuna finishes making the thousandth star, she wishes for her relatives to go back to Korea so that "our family could be normal." The next day, she learns that Halmoni has died and that Yuna's family must leave for Korea. Believing she caused her grandmother's death, Yuna--who has begun transforming into paper--determines to make another wish to bring Halmoni back. Expressive faces and stout figures paired with a soft color palette economically showcase Yuna's struggle with grief and identity as she learns more about her family's roots in this heartfelt story. An author's note concludes. Ages 8-12. Agent: Kathleen Ortiz, KO Media Management. (Sept.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 4-7--Middle schooler Yuna, born in America to Korean parents, struggles with feeling too Korean to fit in with her American peers at school. Frustrated with her fractured life and desperate to fit in, Yuna makes a wish on paper stars to return to Korea so she might feel normal somewhere. When the unexpected death of her halmoni (grandmother) makes Yuna's wish come true, Yuna is wracked with guilt and feels more fragile than ever as she realizes she also feels too American to fit in with her extended Korean family. As her family prepares to bury her halmoni, Yuna has to race the clock to fold more stars and undo her wish before her halmoni is gone forever. Color is expertly used to indicate time and perspective: blue-washed illustrations indicate Yuna's memories, yellow for her umma's or cousin's, and a vibrant full-color palette for the present. Most panels rely on modest but expressive illustrations and color blocking or otherwise minimalist design to move the story forward to great effect, and the use of paper as a connective thread and metaphor throughout is powerful. The preface includes a note about the use of font styles to represent Korean and English language as well as thoughts. Back matter includes directions on how to fold paper stars and an author's note on the inspiration behind the story, which notes it is based on true events. Most characters are Korean or Korean American, while most school peers are white. VERDICT A stirring look at the grief that comes from loss, distance, and a feeling of disconnect.--Alea Perez

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


Starred Review

An affirming exploration of belonging and a testament to the power of family stories.


Yi's author's note thoughtfully reveals the autobiographical nature of her heartfelt story presented in vivid, spirited panels that move back and forth in time. Yi relies on single hues that wash over past events while the present glows in gorgeous full color.

Review quotes

I can't rave enough about A Sky of Paper Stars. It is charming, heartfelt and a joy to read. It's a beautiful story about grief and belonging that all ages can relate to. This graphic novel is a triumph for so many Korean American kids feeling caught between two cultures. Every page touched my heart and left me wishing I could give this book to my younger self. —Michelle Mee Nutter, Eisner nominated, best-selling illustrator of Allergic

Heartbreakingly beautiful! Such a simple, poignant story, brought to life in a fresh way by a talented storyteller and illustrator. - Abigail Hing Wen, New York Times best selling author of the Loveboat, Taipei series 

A heartfelt and magical journey about belonging and identity that will have you rooting for Yuna. —Remy Lai, award-winning author of Pie In the Sky

A Sky of Paper Stars is a complex story of belonging that is beautifully told through charming illustrations and honest truth. —Victoria Ying, author-illustrator of City of Secrets and Hungry Ghost

Inspired by personal memories and stories from her family, Yi layers an exploration of intergenerational relationships with magical realism in this heartfelt middle grade graphic novel. —BCCB

Susie Yi
Susie Yi is a Korean-American author-illustrator. She debuted her children's graphic novel career with the series Cat & Cat Adventures, published by HarperAlley, based on her beloved webcomic Cat & Cat Comics. She currently lives in sunny southern California with her two cats Mickey and Minnie.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date
September 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV039030 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Death & Dying
JUV013000 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | General
JUV011020 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Asian American
JUV008080 - Juvenile Fiction | Comics & Graphic Novels | Fantasy
Library of Congress categories
Identity (Psychology)
Family life
Graphic novels
Cartoons and comics
Comics (Graphic works)
Korean Americans
Middle school students
Korean American families
Conflict of generations
Korean American youth
Intergenerational relations

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