Friday, August 29, 2008

kira - kira: Book Review

Title: kira - kira
Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Age Level: Ages 9 - 12
Hardcover: 244 pages
Publisher: Aladdin (December 26, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0689856407
ISBN-13: 978-0689856402

This 2005 Newbery Medal award winner, kira - kira (meaning glitter and light) by Cynthia Kadohata is written very well but the subject of death and dying may not be the best for ages younger than ten. However, the approach Kadohata uses is one of love, understanding and family unity. Kadohata tells the story through Katie Takeshima as narrator beginning when Katie is in kindergarten. Katie's voice is about ten or twelve as the narrator but reflects on events happening from kindergarten to middle school. Her recollection is realistic and poignant.

Still the novel is funny and sad. Set in the mid 1950's the story is about a Japanese-American family who lost their grocery business in Iowa and were forced to move from their home to a new life and new jobs. Katie's Uncle Katsuhisa told her parents they could get good jobs in Georgia working for the chicken hatcheries. Katie's Dad was a sexer which was specialty work. Sexers had to separate male chicks from female chicks very quickly while the chicks were still warm. Katie's mom worked in the clean room where she prepared chickens for packaging. The hours and conditions were horrendous. The 1950's were not kind to Japanese-Americans or non-union workers.

Katie Takeshima loves her sister Lynn more than anything in the world. they are inseparable. She will do anything Lynn asks. Lynn's outlook on life is kira-kira. She gives Katie advice on everything from the sky to the ocean and people's eyes. the two sisters give up buying candy with their daily allowance to fulfill their dream to buy their parents a house some day. Katie says "Our favorite book was Silas Marner. We were quite capitalistic and liked the idea of Silas keeping all that gold underneath the floorboards."

When Lynn becomes ill, Katie never doubts that Lynn will get better and they will all be able to live by the ocean. This is Lynn's favorite place. But as the well times become shorter for Lynn over the years, Katie begins to wonder what is going on but her parents never talk to her about Lynn's illness. They just tell her Lynn has anemia. Katie looks it up in the dictionary and figures it is not serious so she is not that concerned.

About the Author: Cynthia Kadohata has been writing since 1982. When she was 25 and completely directionless, she took a Greyhound bus trip up the West Coast, and then down through the South and Southwest. She met people she never would have met otherwise. It was during that bus trip which lasted a month that she rediscovered in the landscape the magic she's known as a child. though she had never considered writing fiction before, the next year she decided to begin. She sent one story out every month, and about forty-eight stories later, The New Yorker took one. She now lives in California.

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  1. Thanks for a great book review. I will get this and read it myself and put it on my blog as a resource for fictional reading about death and dying. I had not heard of the book before. Thanks again.

  2. Hi Terri,
    I am so glad this book review was able to point you to a good resource for your site. I know you will enjoy it as I did.


  3. Super review - thank you. I'm always on the hunt for great children's books and have recently discovered Bayard and their series of StoryBoxBooks, AdventureBoxBooks and DiscoveryBoxBooks (which has a special focus on teeth!) They have work by acclaimed children's books illustrator Helen Oxenbury appearing in the Storybox series for September. In addition to this, they also have some great activities for rainy days:,, Enjoy!

  4. Hey Carma,
    Thank you for such a thoughtful review. I know these are children's books, but you make me interested enough with your perspective that I want to read many of them.


  5. Hi Judy before I began reading these middle grade novels I had no idea how great they are. Our kids really have a wealth of literature available to them. I would like to be able to inspire them all to read more.

  6. Book thanks for those terrific links. I will have to spend more time there.