Friday, March 07, 2008

'Kira-Kira'

by Cynthia Kadohata
Fiction/YA, 2004
Atheneum Books, hardback, 244 p.
WINNER - Newbery Medal, 2005
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.
I found this in the library and since it won the Newbery Medal in 2005, I decided to read it for the Book Awards challenge even though it wasn’t on my original list. It was a moving story and I enjoyed hearing it through the voice of young Katie. It might not be full of action but it kept me turning the pages, wanting to read on about the family’s problems and how they coped with them. I came to care about the family, especially the sisters, and wanted to see how things turned out. I suppose because it was about a Japanese family, it also reminded me a little bit of Obasan by Joy Kogawa.

When I was a child, I didn’t even know about the internment of Japanese, or other “enemy aliens” in the history of Canada or the US. If these kinds of books were available then, I certainly wasn’t aware of them. Even though Kira-Kira isn’t an internment story itself, taking place after WWII in the 1950s, it does deal with the difficult life the Japanese immigrants had to endure because of racism and discrimination. So I think it’s great that Kadohata has written this specifically as a children’s story. I’m sure there are some adults too who could use a lesson in tolerance but that’s another issue. Overall it was an engaging story on a topic that many people like not to think about.

My Rating: 4/5
(#8 for 2008, Book Awards Challenge #4)

Also reviewed at:
The Well-Read Child

8 comments:

  1. Not sure if I've mentioned this book to you or not already, but when I was a child, I read "Farewell to Manzanar," by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, a true story dealing with this topic. I loved it and read it quite a few times - something I did a lot when I was young if it was a book I loved. If I hadn't come across this book, I wouldn't have known about this important topic until who-knows-when. I recommend the book highly.

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  2. Oh I like the sound of this book. It sounds a bit familiar to me but I probably had dismissed it being a YA book. So glad I came to my senses and now read YA books on occasion :)

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  3. I read annother book about the internment of Japanese families which is a realy good book also: "WHEN THE EMPEROR WAS DIVINE" by Julie Otsuka. I learned a lot which I did not know.

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  4. I really liked Obasan. I wasn't familiar with this one, but now I'm going to have to read it.

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  5. I read this at the beginning of the year and I also really enjoyed it...I hadn`t read much YA fiction since i myself was a YA..but it was a lovely book.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed it also!

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  6. Teresa- I think both you and Les recommended Farewell to Manzanar to me, if I remember correctly. Anyway I did finally pick up a copy last year and I was looking at it after finishing Kira-Kira. I'm sure I'll read it sometime soon.

    Iliana- LOL. YA books are quite fun sometimes. :)

    Madeleine- Oh I've had that book for a long time but still haven't read it. I really should one of these days. I think one of the first books I read on the internment of Japanese was Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. A very good book and movie too.

    Nymeth- I liked Obasan but didn't care as much for the sequel Itsuka, since it was mainly political, about trying to get official redress from the government. Was still worth reading though.

    Lulu- It was a lovely book. I'm glad I happened upon it in the library.

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  7. I think I'd like to read this book. Thanks!

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  8. Joy- I think it's worth the read and it is quite quick, being a children's book.

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