January 29, 2007

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

Kira-kira is a word that means things that glitter, and brings to mind the sun's reflections sparkling on the ocean, or to be less literal, all the wonderful small moments in life. In this book for middle schoolers or more able upper-elementary readers, the story centers on Katie and her sister Lyn, two Japanese-American girls stuck out of place in Georgia during the 1950's and 60's. Their parents both work ridiculously long hours at poultry plants, they are always poor, and their neighbors and the girls' classmates ignore them. This was a time and place when it was not easy to be "different," and there were only a handful of Japanese in the South. Though the family managed to deal with racism and ignorance, there were bigger problems that they could not control, and which finally changed their lives. Characters change through the course of the book, and we come to understand quite a bit about their lives, hopes, worries, and weaknesses.

This is not exactly a happy book, but it does lead the reader to feel part of Katie's family, and to enjoy all the moments of joy (kira-kira, as Katie and Lyn would say) that the characters experience. It reads like a non-fiction memoir, though it is truly a work of fiction. Readers who enjoy moving stories about real-life situations, realistic but amazing characters, tales of what it's like to be an outside in a small community, and seeing how people deal with their problems and solve them will enjoy this book. It made me cry at times (yes, Mister K is a sensitive guy), and cheer at others. This book helps you to see that life is full of trouble, but also quite a bit of kira-kira.
Kira-Kira was awarded the John Newbery medal in 2005, which means a bunch of important librarians liked it too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This looks like a good book, I really want to read it.