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4.6 227
by Cynthia Kadohata

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kira-kira (kee ra kee ra): glittering; shining Glittering. That's how Katie Takeshima's sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people's eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the


kira-kira (kee ra kee ra): glittering; shining Glittering. That's how Katie Takeshima's sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people's eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it's Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare. And it's Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering -- kira-kira -- in the future.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An unforgettable story."
-- San Diego Union-Tribune

"This novel shine[s]."
-- Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Will speak to readers who have lost someone they love or fear that they could."
-- Booklist, starred review

Cynthia Kadohata's bracingly human, Newbery Medal-winning novel, Kira-Kira, captures the poignant family ties among two sisters (one of them terminally ill), their parents, and their brother in post-WWII Georgia. As her sibling Lynn falls desperately sick, young Katie grapples with mature responsibilities that she could have never before imagined.
Publishers Weekly
PW starred this Newbery winner, which is set in the 1950s and '60s and is narrated by a first-generation Japanese-American girl, saying, "The family's devotion to one another, and one sister's ability to teach her younger sister to appreciate the `kira-kira,' or glittering, in everyday life make this novel shine." Ages 10-14. (Dec.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kadohata is a successful writer of short stories published in The New Yorker and other magazines, and she has written a highly praised novel, The Floating World. In this book for younger YAs, she turns to the 1950s and the story of a hard-working Japanese family living in the American South. The narrator is the second child, Katie, who adores her older sister Lynn and is happy to help out with their baby brother. The family lives in a community with several other Japanese families-the adults work brutally long hours in chicken hatcheries and processing plants. Others in the small town generally ignore the Japanese, dismissing them because they are foreign and of a different race. The story is about the family's struggle to earn enough money to buy a house. But the real drama comes as Lynn becomes ill and is slowly dying. Katie frequently has to stay home from school to take care of her sister, especially in the last weeks before Lynn dies. Sometimes she is so tired, so miserable, she and Lynn have arguments. Later, after Lynn's death, Katie is haunted by these failures. Lynn has been so important in Katie's life, especially since their parents work such long hours-it is Lynn who is Katie's mentor, who encourages Katie to see the beauty wherever they are. "Kira-kira" is a word taught by Lynn to Katie; it means "glitteringly beautiful," and Katie struggles to keep this joy of life even after Lynn's death. KLIATT Codes: J-Recommended for junior high school students. 2004, Simon & Schuster, Atheneum, 244p., Ages 12 to 15.
— Claire Rosser
Children's Literature
This is the story of two Japanese-American sisters who move to rural Georgia from Iowa so that their parents can earn a better living. Katie, the younger sister from whose point of view the story is told, thinks that her sister Lynn is a genius who can do anything. As the story progresses and it becomes clear that the better living being earned by the parents means that they must work impossible schedules, it also becomes apparent that something is wrong with Lynn, who is often tired and sick. Lynn's greatest dream is for the family to move from the tiny apartment in which they live into their own house. When her parents, who never borrow money and do not trust banks, finally decide to get a loan to get Lynn's house, it is clear that her sickness must be serious. Finally, Katie's father tells her that Lynn has lymphoma. When Lynn finally dies, Katie assumes her role of keeping the family's dreams alive, despite the difficulties they are having emotionally and financially. This book would be especially good for students studying the aftermath of World War II on Japanese Americans. In addition, it would be excellent reading material for any student going through the loss of a family member. 2004, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Ages 11 up.
—Angie Rogers
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Katie's first word is "kira-kira," the Japanese word for "glittering," and she uses it to describe everything she likes. It was taught to her by her older sister, Lynn, whom Katie worships. Both girls have trouble adjusting when their parents move the family from Iowa to a small town in rural Georgia, where they are among only 31 Japanese-Americans. They seldom see their parents, who have grueling jobs in chicken-processing plants. Then Lynn becomes deathly ill, and Katie is often left to care for her, a difficult and emotionally devastating job. When her sister dies of lymphoma, Katie searches for ways to live up to her legacy and to fulfill the dreams she never had a chance to attain. Told from Katie's point of view and set in the 1950s, this beautifully written story tells of a girl struggling to find her own way in a family torn by illness and horrendous work conditions. Katie's parents can barely afford to pay their daughter's medical bills, yet they refuse to join the growing movement to unionize until after Lynn's death. All of the characters are believable and well developed, especially Katie, who acts as a careful observer of everything that happens in her family, even though there is a lot she doesn't understand. Especially heartbreaking are the weeks leading up to Lynn's death, when Katie is exhausted and frustrated by the demands of her sister's illness, yet willing to do anything to make her happy. Girls will relate to and empathize with the appealing protagonist.-Ashley Larsen, Woodside Library, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Katie loves and admires her older sister, Lynn, only to lose her in this story that reads like a memoir about a Japanese-American family in the 1950s. Built around the loss of Lynn to lymphoma, it belongs to Katie and stays true to her perspective. The supporting cast of extended family and friends also fits within Katie's vision of life. Humor keeps the depth of sadness at bay as Katie reports events: "If a robber came to our apartment, I would hit him over the head with a lamp. So I didn't need a bank, personally." Starting out in Iowa, the family moves to Georgia; both parents work long hours in the poultry industry to buy and then pay for a house of their own. Kadohata weaves details of life for a Japanese-American family into the narrative along with Lynn and Katie's gradual acquirement of understanding of the dominant culture around them. The vivid writing and the portrayal of a most loving and honorable father lift this above the norm. "Kira-kira" is Japanese for glittering, and Kadohata's Katie sparkles. (Fiction. 10-14)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 0.80(d)
740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

My sister, Lynn, taught me my first word: kira-kira. I pronounced it ka-a-ahhh, but she knew what I meant. Kira-kira means "glittering" in Japanese. Lynn told me that when I was a baby, she used to take me onto our empty road at night, where we would lie on our backs and look at the stars while she said over and over, "Katie, say 'kira-kira, kira-kira.'" I loved that word! When I grew older, I used kira-kira to describe everything I liked: the beautiful blue sky; puppies; kittens; butterflies; colored Kleenex.

My mother said we were misusing the word; you could not call a Kleenex kira-kira. She was dismayed over how un-Japanese we were and vowed to send us to Japan one day. I didn't care where she sent me, so long as Lynn came along.

I was born in Iowa in 1951. I know a lot about when I was a little girl, because my sister used to keep a diary. Today I keep her diary in a drawer next to my bed.

I like to see how her memories were the same as mine, but also different. For instance, one of my earliest memories is the day Lynn saved my life. I was almost five, and she was almost nine. We were playing on the empty road near our house. Fields of tall corn stretched into the distance wherever you looked. A dirty gray dog ran out of the field near us, and then he ran back in. Lynn loved animals. Her long black hair disappeared into the corn as she chased the dog. The summer sky was clear and blue. I felt a brief fear as Lynn disappeared into the cornstalks. When she wasn't in school, she stayed with me constantly. Both our parents worked. Officially, I stayed all day with a lady from down the road, but unofficially, Lynn was the one who took care of me.

After Lynn ran into the field, I couldn't see anything but corn.

"Lynnie!" I shouted. We weren't that far from our house, but I felt scared. I burst into tears.

Somehow or other, Lynn got behind me and said, "Boo!" and I cried some more. She just laughed and hugged me and said, "You're the best little sister in the world!" I liked it when she said that, so I stopped crying.

The dog ran off. We lay on our backs in the middle of the road and stared at the blue sky. Some days nobody at all drove down our little road. We could have lain on our backs all day and never got hit.

Lynn said, "The blue of the sky is one of the most special colors in the world, because the color is deep but see-through both at the same time. What did I just say?"

"The sky is special."

"The ocean is like that too, and people's eyes."

She turned her head toward me and waited. I said, "The ocean and people's eyes are special too."

That's how I learned about eyes, sky, and ocean: the three special, deep, colored, see-through things. I turned to Lynnie. Her eyes were deep and black, like mine.

The dog burst from the field suddenly, growling and snarling. Its teeth were long and yellow. We screamed and jumped up. The dog grabbed at my pants. As I pulled away, the dog ripped my pants and his cold teeth touched my skin. "Aaahhhhh!" I screamed.

Lynn pulled at the dog's tail and shouted at me, "Run, Katie, run!" I ran, hearing the dog growling and Lynnie grunting. When I got to the house, I turned around and saw the dog tearing at Lynn's pants as she huddled over into a ball. I ran inside and looked for a weapon. I couldn't think straight. I got a milk bottle out of the fridge and ran toward Lynn and threw the bottle at the dog. The bottle missed the dog and broke on the street. The dog rushed to lap up the milk.

Lynn and I ran toward the house, but she stopped on the porch. I pulled at her. "Come on!"

She looked worried. "He's going to cut his tongue on the glass."

"Who cares?"

But she got the water hose and chased the dog away with the water, so it wouldn't hurt its tongue. That's the way Lynn was. Even if you tried to kill her and bite off her leg, she still forgave you.

This is what Lynn said in her diary from that day:

The corn was so pretty. When it was all around me, I felt like I wanted to stay there forever. Then I heard Katie crying, and I ran out as fast as I could. I was so scared. I thought something had happened to her!

Later, when the dog attacked me, Katie saved my life.

I didn't really see things that way. If she hadn't saved my life first, I wouldn't have been able to save her life. So, really, she's the one who saved a life.

Lynn was the bravest girl in the world. She was also a genius. I knew this because one day I asked her, "Are you a genius?" And she said, "Yes." I believed her because the day my father taught her how to play chess, she won her first game. She said she would teach me how to play if I wanted. She always said she would teach me everything in the world I needed to know. She said we would be rich someday and buy our parents seven houses. But first they would buy a house for all of us. That wonderful day was not far off. I found this out one afternoon when Lynn pulled me into the kitchen, her eyes shining. "I have to show you something," she said.

She reached under the refrigerator and pulled out a tray. A worn envelope sat inside. She opened the envelope up and showed me what was inside: cash.

"Is that real?" I said.

"Uh-huh. It belongs to Mom and Dad. It's for our house we're going to buy."

We lived in a little rented house in Iowa. I liked our little rented house, but Lynn always told me I would love our very own house. Then we could get a dog, a cat, and a parakeet.

Lynn looked at me expectantly. I said, "Doesn't money belong in a bank?"

"They don't trust the bank. Do you want to count it?"

She handed me the envelope, and I took the money in my hands. It felt damp and cool. "One, two, three..." I counted to eleven. Eleven hundred-dollar bills. I wasn't sure what to think. I found a dollar once in a parking lot. I bought a lot of stuff with that. With eleven hundred dollars, it seemed you could buy anything. "I hope our house is painted sky blue," I said.

"It will be." She put the money back. "They think it's hidden, but I saw Mom take it out."

Our parents owned a small Oriental foods grocery store. Unfortunately, there were hardly any Oriental people in Iowa, and the store went out of business shortly after Lynn and I first counted the money under the refrigerator. My father's brother, my uncle Katsuhisa, worked in a poultry hatchery in Georgia. He said he could get my father a job at the hatchery. And, he said, he could get my mother a job working in a poultry processing factory. A few weeks after the store went out of business, my father decided to take us down to Georgia to join the poultry industry.

So we owed Uncle Katsuhisa a big favor for helping us. Katsu means "triumph" in Japanese. For some reason I always thought "triumph" and "trumpet" were the same thing, and I thought of my uncle as a trumpet.

Lynn said Uncle Katsuhisa was an odd fish. He was as loud as my father was quiet. Even when he wasn't talking, he made a lot of noise, clearing his throat and sniffing and tapping his fingers. Sometimes, for no reason that I could see, he would suddenly stand up and clap his hands together really loudly. After he got everyone's attention, he would just sit down again. He even made noise when he was thinking. When he was deep in thought, he had a way of turning his ears inside out so they looked kind of deformed. The ears would make a popping sound when they came undone. Lynn said you could hear him thinking: Pop! Pop!

A buttonlike scar marked one side of Uncle Katsuhisa's nose. The story was that when he was a boy in Japan, he was attacked by giant crows, one of which tried to steal his nose. He, my father, and my mother were Kibei, which meant they were born in the United States but were sent to Japan for their education. The crows of Japan are famous for being mean. Anyway, that was the story Lynn told me.

It was a sweltering day when Uncle Katsuhisa arrived in Iowa to help us move to Georgia. We all ran outside when we heard his truck on our lonely road. His truck jerked and sputtered and was generally as noisy as he was. My mother said, "Will that truck make it all the way to Georgia?"

My father hit his chest with his fist. That's what he did whenever he wanted to say, Definitely! He added, "He's my brother." Our father was solid and tall, six feet, and our mother was delicate and tiny, four feet ten. As tiny as she was, she scared us when she got mad. Her soft face turned hard and glasslike, as if it could break into pieces if something hit it.

As my parents watched Uncle's truck my father reached both of his arms around my mother, enveloping her. He stood with her like that a lot, as if protecting her.

"But his being your brother has nothing to do with whether the truck will make it all the way to Georgia," my mother said.

My father said, "If my brother says it will make it, then it will make it." He didn't seem to have a doubt in the world. His brother was four years older than he was. Maybe he trusted Uncle Katsuhisa the way I trusted Lynn. Lynn whispered to me, "Frankly, I wonder whether the truck will make it all the way up the road to our house, let alone to Georgia." "Frankly" was her favorite word that week.

Our mother looked at us suspiciously. She didn't like it when we whispered. She thought that meant we were gossiping, and she was against gossiping. She focused on me. She was trying to read my mind. Lynn said whenever our mother did that, I should try to think nonsense words in my head. I thought to myself, Elephant, cow, moo, koo, doo. Elephant...My mother turned back around, to watch the truck.

When the truck finally rumbled up, Uncle Katsuhisa jumped out and immediately ran toward Lynn and me. I stepped back, but he swooped me up in his arms and shouted, "My little palomino pony! That's what you are!" He twirled me around until I felt dizzy. Then he set me down and picked up Lynn and twirled her around and said, "My little wolfie girl!"

He set Lynn down and hugged my father hard. He hugged my mother delicately. While Uncle hugged my mother, she turned her face away a bit, as if his loudness made her feel faint.

It was hard to see how my father and Uncle Katsuhisa could be related. My father was mild, like the sea on a windless day, with an unruffled surface and little variation. He was as hard as the wall in our bedroom. Just to prove how strong he was, he used to let us hit him in the stomach as hard as we could. Some days we would sneak up on him and punch him in the stomach, and he never even noticed. We would sneak away while he kept listening to the radio as if nothing had happened.

My father liked to think. Sometimes Lynn and I would peek at him as he sat at the kitchen table, thinking. His hands would be folded on the table, and he would be frowning at nothing. Sometimes he would nod, but only slightly. I knew I would never be a thinker like my father, because I couldn't sit that still. Lynn said he thought so much that sometimes weeks or even months passed before he made a decision. Once he decided something, though, he never changed his mind. He'd thought many weeks before deciding to move us to Georgia. By the time he decided, there was only six hundred dollars in cash left in the envelope under the refrigerator.

The night Uncle Katsuhisa arrived in Iowa, he left the dinner table early so he could go out and take a walk and maybe talk to himself. After the front door closed, my mother said that Uncle Katsuhisa was the opposite of my father in that he didn't look before he leapt, didn't think at all before he made decisions. She lowered her voice and said, "That's why he married that woman," meaning his first wife. Strictly speaking, Mom was gossiping, but who was going to tell her? We all sat silently.

My father and uncle were different in other ways. Uncle Katsuhisa liked to talk to anyone, even to himself. My father didn't like to talk, except to my mother. He preferred to read the newspaper. My uncle, on the other hand, never read the paper. He did not give a hoot what President Eisenhower had to say.

My uncle was exactly one inch taller than my father. But his stomach was soft. We knew this because we hit him in it once the year before, and he yelped in pain and threatened to spank us. We got sent to bed without supper because my parents said hitting someone was the worst thing you could do. Stealing was second, and lying was third.

Before I was twelve, I would have committed all three of those crimes.

Copyright &169; 2004 by Cynthia Kadohata

Meet the Author

Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning book Kira-Kira, the National Book Award winner The Thing About Luck, the Jane Addams Peace Award and Pen USA Award winner Weedflower, Cracker!, Outside Beauty, A Million Shades of Gray, Half a World Away, and several critically acclaimed adult novels, including The Floating World. She lives with her hockey-playing son and dog in West Covina, California.

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Kira-Kira 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 227 reviews.
kalbers More than 1 year ago
Kira-Kira is a very sad story.I garantee it will make you cry.It made me cry.This story is also a very loving and touching story about a family's hard life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book didn't really stand out in any major way. I've read far more interesting books. Sure, it had a nice ending. It's important to note, though, the difference between the recommended ages (11-14) and the Accelerated Reader level of 4.7. Language and a couple of mentions of sex and dating might not be what the 4.7 level child needs to read. So, while it might be an interesting story, it's important to note the appropriateness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very good book about Lynn and Katie, two Japanese sister who moved from Iowa to Georgia. It is a sad but has good sisterly moments and the end seemed very memorible for Katie. I read this book and would highly reccommend it to people who like family oriented books. Read the book to find out how it all ends up for the family!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was amazing. It was touching and had good details. It made me happy and it made tears well up in my eyes. Overall it was a realistic story and was perfect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a lesson telling u to love your siblings and parents definitley reccomended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata is a book that deserves a 2 star rating. This book deserves 2 stars because throughout the story it is really depressing. The book starts out as Lynn and Katie loving each other greatly in a town in Iowa. But early on in the book Katies family has to move to Georgia and the parents start working almost all day. The father works so much that he sleeps at his job to save driving time. Though Katie and Lynn's friendship survives it soon falls apart. Lynn becomes sick and is no longer able to go to school. Katie adapts to the South well enough and develops a Southern accent that becomes so well known that she is payed to talk to people. Katie also continues saving money that she finds her sister has been saving to buy a house for the family. The condition of Lynn becomes worse and she is dead due to the sickness. The book's few happy parts are as I said, few. When Katie buys a house with the saved up money she has is really touching. It isn't too happy though because Lynn acts as if it isn't to much a big deal which kills it for the family. When Katie is taught what kira kira is in the beginning, that also is somewhat touching. That too though has a bad side to it, because Lynn is telling her about kira kira a rabid dog attacks. The final happy part is when Katie has a birthday party and some friends come over. This was one of the few truly happy parts. The title Kira Kira is not deserved and should be called something like My Depressed Life instead of the Japanese word for glittering.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Whenever they announce the Newbery Winner, if I haven't read it already, I go out, buy it, and then read it and see whether it is good or not. As long as I can remember, it has been good. Sadly, this one was very disappointing. They usually have much better taste than this. This whole story seemed bland, lacking, and generic. If you're looking for a good book and are thinking of this one because it won the Newbery, think again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story brings a true meaning to sister hood but wait till the end....
hoosiers-girl More than 1 year ago
i love this book so much! it brought me to laugh, cry, and at the end all i could say was "awwww!" with my eyes welled up with tears! i reccomend this book to everyone i know and they loved it too! highly reccomend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most awesome and thoroughly enjoyable books I have read in a long time. I stayed up late to read it, and spent half of the time crying. None of the book (up to right before Lynn dies) is really super sad, but it made me cry. It really toutched me. Well, okay it is super sad. But even the happy parts made me cry. Read it! And while you're at it, read the Fruits Basket manga by Natsuki Takaya.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i put one star because that's the less we can put.....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a vary good story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay, it seemed kind of interesting at first but as i read on i found it to be a huge disapointment! I seriously don't see how this book could have won an award! At the beginning it seems all sweet, but it's just filled with misery. I found myself crying at some points in the book, and some people may enjoy that but I didn't! This book seems to be a neverending cycle of the older sister getting sick, better, then sick again. Dispite it being dull and sad, i did for some reason finish it. So if you like depressing books with no storyline or point to them, this is definitely the book for you! But if you don't like that type of book then please DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY! I suggest the book below instead, it's one of my favorites.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book combined emotions, love, and an all around great story. I loved the book, even though it was sad, it really made me love my sisters more than ever. I can't wait for my 9 year old sis to be old enough to read it. I also want to lend it to my neighbor and my friends because it is such a great story. read the book, it is great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a very touching book and it tells a lot about love and friendship and care from both sisters its absolutely  beautiful. This book is honestly amazing and very life like this book makes me think of me and my little sister. Were only one year apart.If this was a real life situation I would be lyn and my sister would be katie . This book is sad and like I said before very touching while i read it in class in my spring board book for 6 grade I noticed  most of my class cried including my teacher and myself. I give this book a great big thumbs up #5 STAR THIS BOOK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting from a chid's perspective in how a family struggles with post war attitude in the US.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pets the dog.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. Its alittle sad but if you have a rainy day and your bored I would suggest this book. Very good. 5/5 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amzing book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The sad part is when her sister dies
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
clarkmilliken More than 1 year ago
I bought this with my daughter in mind. I read it first to see if it would be something she might enjoy. Although it had a sad ending, I am sure she will enjoy it as much as I did. She may not understand some of the problems of living during that time period, but I hope she would be able to connect with the young girls in the story.
Yellowdog1 More than 1 year ago
I read this book just because I thought that the topic sounded interesting and it was. I believe that young people should enjoy the book and it definitely is a fast read.