Go to Homepage   Cynthia Kadohata: Kira-Kira


Crescent Blues Book ViewsSimon & Schuster/Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Hardcover), ISBN 0-689-85639-3

When her parents move their family from Iowa to Georgia, Katie Takeshima's world turns upside down. She loses her home, her friends and her favorite bear, Bera-Bera. At least, her beloved older sister Lynn remains by her side, the two inseparable.

Book: cynthia kodahata, kira-kira

In Georgia, Katie experiences a new life, which includes rarely seeing her parents (her father and mother work at the chicken factory in town), racial prejudice and Sammy, a new baby brother. Lynn tries to explain to Katie why everyone in town, except for the 31 other Japanese Americans, avoid their family. She tries to help Katie understand why their parents must work to save the family. She tries to give Katie hope. Lynn looks out for Katie; and Katie, for Sammy. But except for the light in Lynn's eyes, Katie can no longer see any glittering (kira-kira), only the dullness of a dismal existence.

Then Lynn too, changes. She finds a best friend her own age. She spends more time whispering and talking about boys with Amber than playing with Katie. Katie wants her relationship with her sister to return to normal. Still, she doesn't believe things can get any worse. Then, Lynn gets sick -- very sick. Some days, she doesn't get out of bed. Katie's parents work longer and longer hours to try to pay the medical bills. Soon, they start missing mortgage payments. Through it all, Katie must take care of Lynn and give Sammy the love that Lynn once gave her.

Kira-Kira holds the highest distinction in children's literature of being awarded the 2005 Newbery medal. Like many previous Newbery winners, Kira-Kira tells the story of a young girl's painful coming of age during times of adversity and tragedy. While rarely uplifting, these novels provide a glimmer of hope in the worst of times. They say the important things we want to say, but can't, and state them in the most beautiful way possible. For that, for tackling subjects readers may otherwise find too painful and for changing the reader in a positive way by the end of the book, Kira-Kira truly deserves this award.

Lynne Marie Pisano

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