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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
"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