The Paper Kingdom

  • A #1 Indie Bestseller
  • An Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association
  • Featured on NPR, ABC-TV, Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America
  • Starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, Shelf Awareness
  • BookPage’s Most Anticipated Children’s Books of 2020
  • NPR’s Best Books of 2020 + Staff Pick
  • Parents Magazine 30 Best Children’s Books of 2020 
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2020
  • Los Angeles Public Library Best Books of 2020
  • BookPage Best Books of 2020
  • Amazon Best Books of 2020

THE PAPER KINGDOM was released on February 18, 2020 by Random House Studio, a division of Penguin Random House. The book is based on Helena’s childhood experiences, and was illustrated by the amazing artist Pascal Campion, who does cover art for The New Yorker and animation for movie studios.

Book description:

When the babysitter is unable to come, Daniel is woken out of bed and joins his parents as they head downtown for their jobs as nighttime office cleaners. But the story is about more than brooms, mops, and vacuums. Mama and Papa turn the deserted office building into a magnificent kingdom filled with paper. Then they weave a fantasy of dragons and kings to further engage their reluctant companion–and even encourage him to one day be the king of a paper kingdom. The Paper Kingdom expresses the joy and spirit of a loving family who turn a routine and ordinary experience into something much grander. Magical art by Pascal Campion shows both the real world and the fantasy through the eyes of the young narrator.


Icon-star “A beautiful, must-read tribute to hardworking families and the magic they create.” Kirkus, starred review

Icon-starEnchanting and powerful.” – Booklist, starred review 

Icon-star “In this entrancing picture book, a boy has to join his parents at work when the babysitter cancels. Helena Ku Rhee crafts a layered, loving picture book tribute to family and the sacrifices that parents make for their children’s future…Pascal Campion’s blurry lines and the watercolor-like shadows that follow the characters bring to mind the parallel world of kings and queens.” — Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Thanks to Helena Ku Rhee’s masterful characterizations, brought to life by illustrator Pascal Campion, The Paper Kingdom shines with the power of creativity—but also with the love shared between parents and their child.” – BookPage: Most Anticipated Children’s Books of 2020

“[A] meaningful portrayal of one working-class experience and an image of a loving, hardworking family.” – Publisher’s Weekly 

“Inspired by the author’s own life, this is an uplifting story of a family working hard to make things better for the next generation.” – School Library Journal

An Indie Next List pick by the American Booksellers Association

Best Books for Young Readers of 2020 by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education

  Connecticut’s Nutmeg Book Award nominee 2023

  Minnesota’s Star of the North Honor Book 2023





CURRICULUM GUIDE FOR THE PAPER KINGDOM. Includes a coloring activity and a craft.

Click here to read Helena’s essay for The essay was an Editor’s Pick and provides context for The Paper Kingdom.

Listen to Helena and Pascal’s NPR interview about their collaboration on The Paper Kingdom. Click the audio player below. And if you want to read NPR’s full article about the book, click here.

Click here for Helena’s informative chat about The Paper Kingdom with the L.A. Public Library. After a brief technical glitch, she gives lots of advice for aspiring authors!