'Kira-Kira' - Cynthia Kadohata

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.
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. (4/5)

Cross-posted on my blog.