Jessica's Reviews > Kira-Kira

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
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's review
Aug 31, 2011

really liked it
Read in August, 2006

To five-year-old Katie, Lynn is the perfect older sister. Lynn taught Katie her first word, kira-kira, which means glitteringly beautiful, and showed her the kira-kira of the stars and many other things in life. When the story opens it is the late 1950s and Lynn and Katie’s parents are selling their small, failing, Asian market in Iowa and moving the family to rural Georgia. There Lynn and Katie become even more inseparable as their parents work long hours under horrendous conditions in the poultry industry in the hopes to some day have enough money to buy their own home. Lynn continues to be Katie’s best friend and mentor, both shielding her from and teaching her about the prejudices she’ll face as a Japanese American in her mostly white school and community. By the time Katie is ten, she has a new brother who idolizes her as much as she idolizes Lynn, her parents have aged more than five years worth in the past five years, and Lynn is always tired and ill. When Lynn is diagnosed with leukemia, Katie’s and Lynn’s roles slowly reverse as Katie becomes the caretaker for her dying sister. While Katie goes through the stages of grief, Lynn’s diary becomes an inspiration for her to continue to seek the kira-kira in life and to continue to fight for the family’s dreams.

Katie’s first-person voice is convincingly written as she ages from a five to twelve year old. The Takeshima family’s struggles with work, racism, and their daughter’s illness are realistically portrayed and not over-dramatized. The story is gripping and heartbreaking, yet also inspiring, and is highly recommended for ages 10 and up.

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