Kadohata, Cynthia. 2004. KIRA-KIRA. New York: Athenaeum Books. ISBN 0-689-85639-3
(2) Plot Summary
Katie idolizes her big sister. Lynn is a genius, beautiful, and always looking out for her little sister. Katie learns from Lynn to see the Kira-Kira in everything- in the wind, in the water, and in the waves. When the family grocery store goes out of business, Katie’s family moves from Iowa to Georgia where there are hatchery jobs available. In the beginning Katie has a difficult time with the move and subsequent mistreatment by other people. She doesn’t understand why the girls in her class will not play with her and why their mothers will not acknowledge her mother on the street. Lynn becomes very ill and the illness puts an emotional and economic strain on the family.
(3) Critical Analysis
Told through Katie’s point of view, young female readers will identity with Katie. Though her heritage and background may differ, Katie’s experiences and feelings are universal to that of many young girls. Kadohata chooses to included in the story the racism experienced by Japanese-Americans in mid-nineteenth century United States. She could have easily have not disclosed it but doing so would have not given credence and power to Katie’s story. Unfortunately most young people have felt at one time alienated for one reason or another so they are drawn further to Katie. In the end Katie discovered the theme of Lynn’s life (what she was trying to teach her all along), to see the kira-kira (the glitter, and the joy and the beauty) in even the simplest of things.
(4) Review Excerpt(s)
Publishers Weekly: “one sister's ability to teach her younger sister to appreciate the `kira-kira,' or glittering, in everyday life make this novel shine."
Booklist: “The real story is in the small details, never self-consciously poetic but tense with family drama. …Kadohata stays true to the child's viewpoint in plain, beautiful prose that can barely contain the passionate feelings 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.”
* Have students read the following books:
Kadohata, Cynthia. Weedflower. ISBN 0689865740
Uegaki, Chieri. Suki's Kimono. ISBN 1553370848
McCoy, Karen Kawaamota. Bon Odori Dancer. ISBN 187996516X
* The class can perform a reader’s theater script. Be sure to switch out the children often so that everyone gets a chance to participate.