The Paper Wolf

Gracie is an eleven year old who has been in foster care since she was six, moving from family to family. It is no wonder that she has no true understanding of family stability. After being kicked out of a foster home, she is temporarily placed in a group home while her social worker searches diligently for a new family for her.

Early on on the novel, Gracie is placed with the Barkmans. Here is a true family unit. Mr. and Mrs. Barkman have two teenagers and are eager to show love to foster children. But Gracie is not the easiest child to love or so she thinks. Plagued with emotions she can’t really name, Gracie struggles to let down her walls and allow the Barkmans into her heart.

Through unconditional love and one very dramatic experience, the Barkmans show Gracie that they do love her and want her to be a permanent part of their family. But Gracie is holding out. She has to decide if she can let go of what she dreamed of the last six years and let the Barkmans become her permanent family.

Written by a foster parent, this novel introduces its reader to the potential struggles faced by those in foster care. At some points, you just want Gracie to get over herself, but then you remember that 5 years is a long time to be in foster care and Gracie has not had loving families care for her. You begin to see that Gracie is not being a pouty preteen but is harden by a difficult life and needs lots of love to break down barriers she has had to put up to survive. As a granddaughter to foster parents, I have some personal experience with children who have had to be removed from their families for various reasons. Loving foster families can make such a difference in the lives of these children. I think this is a great book for preteen and teen readers. It lends itself to some wonderful discussion about the love of family and the love God has for us all.

Awesomeness:

-The Barkmans want to show Gracie love the way Christ loves us.

-Mrs. Barkman prayers out loud when she is having a particularly difficult moment.

-A wonderful picture of a family who truly loves each other and enjoy being around one another.

Cautions:

-As you can imagine, Gracie has a lot of anger and frustration. She has several outbursts and runs away a few times. Chrissy does a great job of showing us what possible walls a child in foster care might have and ways they might express their emotions without being unrealistic or too descriptive. I think this allows for some really great conversation regarding the experiences of children in foster care.

-There is a scene where Gracie is nearly assaulted by some older boys but is saved by her brother who is then beaten up pretty badly. The description here is well-written and does not use any unnecessary details.

You can connect more with Chrissy at www.chrissymdennis.com

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