Summary and book reviews of Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-Kira

by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-Kira
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2004, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2007, 272 pages

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Book Summary

A moving story of a first-generation Japanese-American girl facing the hardships and discrimination of post WWII America. Winner of the 2005 Newbery Award. Ages 11+.

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 them 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.

Luminous in its persistence of love and hope, Kira-Kira is Cynthia Kadohata's stunning debut in middle-grade fiction.


Winner of the 2005 Newbery Award.

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, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About the Book
Katie Takeshima is about to enter kindergarten in the 1950s, when her parents close their Oriental foods grocery store in Iowa and move to Chesterfield, Georgia to work in a chicken hatchery. Uncle Kutsuhisa helps them move into a small apartment complex where other Japanese families live, and they begin a long struggle toward saving money to purchase a house of their own. The working conditions are almost intolerable at the hatchery, and the Takeshima children experience prejudices at school, but the small community of Japanese families band together and support one another in their daily lives. Because Mr. and Mrs. Takeshima work double shifts, Katie and her younger brother, Sammy, are left in the care ...
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  • award image

    The John Newbery Medal
    2005

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This is a heartbreaking, gorgeous book written from the point of view of young Katie, who is only 10 when her 14 year old sister falls sick and dies. The prose is clear, simple and authentic and, most importantly, is clearly touching the hearts of young readers as you can see by the reader reviews posted at BookBrowse.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (592 words).

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly

Kadohata's spare, lovely images stayed in my head long after I turned the last page. And my 11-year-old was so entranced that she finished the book in a single sitting.

Los Angeles Times Book Review - Sonja Bolle

Kadohata writes beautifully and penetratingly about life on the margins of society and about the in-betweenness of immigrant life.

Boston Globe

Kira-Kira is heartbreaking, brilliant, and might as easily be read by a 41-year-old as a 14-year-old ....in works of literature for the young, the tragic and the comic forever travel hand in hand. Kira-Kira raises this mix to a level of highest art.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The family's devotion to one another, and Lynn's ability to teach Katie to appreciate the kira-kira, or glittering, in everyday life makes this novel shine. Ages 11-up.

School Library Journal - Ashley Larsen

Gr 6-8. 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. ...Girls will relate to and empathize with the appealing protagonist.

Children's Literature - Angie Rogers

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. Ages 11 up.

Booklist - Hazel Rochmn

Starred review. Gr. 6-12. The real story is in the small details, never self-consciously poetic but tense with family drama.....Just as heart wrenching as the sisters' story is what Katie knows of her father's struggle, whether it's his backbreaking work in the factory or his love for his family. The quiet words will speak to readers who have lost someone they love--or fear that they could.

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..... 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

Reader Reviews

Mitty

It clearly shows how Katie deal for her sister Lynn's death
When Katie released the spirit of Lynn, there was a scene that Katie tried not to cry because she wanted to show Lynn her smile. I cried at this part. it's a really good story.

lindsey O'brian

best book
I fell in love with this book. It is really good; I can't stop reading it. You should really read it.

franhuazo

KIRA KIRA
Kira-Kira seems as a word used to just mean something glittering, but to Lynn and Katie it is much more its more of a way to admire everything that they have around them. It's also a way in which they express how they feel and how they can make ...   Read More

cami

amazing but little i mean i lot sad
This book is a wonderful book, so good, I just wish it was not so sad. I almost cried.

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Beyond the Book

Cynthia Kadohata was born in Chicago in 1956. When she was very young her family moved to Georgia where her father found a job as a chicken sexer, like Katie's father in Kira-Kira.  Then when she was about two, her father found a chicken-sexing job in Arkansas, where they lived until she was almost nine. 

She has a BA in journalism from the University of Southern California and 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'd ...

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