Skip to main content

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata


One very windy day in Iowa, Katie Takeshima and her older sister Lynn climbed to their roof with two boxes of Kleenex. They took the Kleenex out one at a time and let the wind catch it. They got in trouble, but it was worth it. The tissues had looked like giant butterflies in the wind. It had been the smart and beautiful Lynn's idea. As Katie says: "Lynn could take a simple, everyday object like a box of Kleenex and use it to prove how amazing the world is." Lynn doesn't just show her family how amazing the world is, she shows us readers too, just by being herself. The story of Katie and Lynn also reminds us readers of how precious family is.

I've never read a novel both as sad and hopeful as Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (Atheneum, 2004). In the novel, all the relationships between family members, but especially between Katie and Lynn and their younger brother Sammy, are so real and so beautiful. It's scary and tragic when Lynn becomes terminally ill, and we see how confused and devastated her family gets.

Aside from characters and relationships I truly care about, what really impresses me about Kira-Kira is the fully realized childhood of Katie. Katie shares a lot of her childhood experiences - conversations, mishaps, and play time with Lynn and Sammy; visiting her working mom at a chicken processing plant; visiting her working dad at a hatchery; episodes featuring her odd uncle; camping trips; and more - and for me these experiences are interesting and entertaining because they feel so authentic. And it isn't just Katie's experiences that are authentic. Her thought processes, feelings, and priorities are authentic too. In Kira-Kira, Cynthia Kadohata has demonstrated a sincere respect for and a clear, sensitive understanding of her young readers.

It was Lynn who taught Katie her first word: kira-kira, which is "glittering" or "shining" in Japanese. Kira-Kira is a very touching novel about life and family and childhood that proves that despite profound loss, the world is kira-kira.


[I bought my own copy of Kira-Kira.]

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Fusion Story: The Year of the Rat by Grace Lin

This was originally posted at Into the Wardrobe on May 3, 2008.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. I want to honor it by celebrating all things Asian American and by reading Asian American children's and young adult literature - particularly Fusion Stories.

The Year of the Rat, a semi-autobiographical novel written and illustrated by Grace Lin, follows a year (one Chinese New Year to the next) in the life of Pacy, a young Taiwanese American. The Year of the Rat is the first year of the Chinese twelve-year cycle and therefore it symbolizes new beginnings. The Year of the Rat is the time to make a fresh start and to change things. And Pacy does experience important changes during the Year of the Rat: her best friend Melody moves away, there's a new boy who is the only other Asian in her elementary school (aside from her sister Ki-Ki), her favorite cousin Clifford gets married, and she starts doubting her dream to become a writer and illustrator. Pacy does not like mos…

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017)

"My name is Alex Petroski and my house is in Rockview, Colorado, United States of America, planet Earth. I am eleven years and eight months old . . ."
Filipino American Alex Petroski LOVES astronomy. His hero is Carl Sagan, the astronomer who sent a "Golden Record" out into space. In 1977, NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. In case the spacecraft ever made contact with extraterrestrial life forms, or future humans, each had on board a "Golden Record," a copper phonograph LP featuring a collection of sounds and images meant to portray the life and culture on planet Earth. The recorded sounds included things like wind, thunder, bird songs, greetings in 55 languages, and the brainwaves of a woman in love. (You can actually listen to the audio of the Golden Record here.)
Alex has built his very own rocket, Voyager 3, and plans to launch it into space at SHARF (Southwest High-Altitude…

Call for Entries: The 2017 PBBY-Salanga Prize

The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) is now accepting entries for the 2017 PBBY-Salanga Prize. The contest is co-sponsored by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Library of the Philippines (NLP). The winner shall receive twenty-five thousand (25,000) pesos and a medal. Prizes will be awarded in an appropriate ceremony to be held during the celebration of National Children’s Book Day in July 2017. Contest Rules The contest is open to all Filipino citizens except those who are related to any PBBY member up to the third degree of consanguinity.Stories should be intended for children aged 6 to 12 years old. The plot and the sequence must be capable of sustaining an illustrated book of 28 to 32 pages.Entries may be in Filipino or English.Entries must be in hard copy, double-spaced, on short bond paper. Maximum length is five (5) pages.A contestant may send in more than one (1) entry.Each entry must be signed by a pen name only. Five (5) copies of ea…