Cynthia Kadohata’s Work Reviewed and Highly Recommended

kira-kiraAfter our discussion of Cynthia Kadohata’s kira-kira, it was clear to me that kira-kira was among our favorite novels of the semester. This is especially significant when you consider that we’ve read several Y.A. classics and bestsellers from To Kill a Mockingbird to The Outsiders. Kadohata’s prose is simple yet profound, and her story is universal yet infused with Japanese culture. Not to mention the fact that her protagonist, an elementary school-aged middle child named Katie, is perfectly loveable. Kira-kira deals with topics as difficult as growing up Japanese-American in 1960s Georgia and caring for a terminally ill sibling, who, it should be said, is Katie’s beautiful and charismatic sister and best friend, while also dealing with topics as commonplace as parent-child conflict. It is the sort of Newbery Medal-winning novel that might be enjoyed and analyzed in a middle school classroom or just as easily swallowed whole on a rainy afternoon, no matter the reader’s age.

the thing about luck

Kadohata’s most recent publication—the National Book Award-winning The Thing About Luck—has all the charm of kira-kira. Its 12-year-old, Japanese-American protagonist, Summer, is much like kira-kira’s Katie. In fact, you might think of Summer as an older Katie—one who is sometimes embarrassed by her Japanese-American grandparents in her pursuit of the attention of a cute teenage boy. But Summer’s story takes place during the wheat-harvesting season in the Midwest, rather than in and around the Georgian poultry farms. Like Katie, Summer makes mistakes, and her family is rather poor. As a result, Summer has to find a way to turn her family’s luck around—an endeavor that leads to an exciting finale.


6 thoughts on “Cynthia Kadohata’s Work Reviewed and Highly Recommended

  1. SD, I like that you mentioned the simplicity of the prose. I devoured this book, and the simplicity is part of what made it so compelling. People often mention simplicity in regards to Hemmingway, but that tends to hide the depth of the action. I believe kira-kira has this same sort of simplicity. I am not ashamed to admit that I was openly weeping when I finished this novel, and I can’t wait to share it with my students. JMV

  2. SD and JMV, YES! I must agree with you guys that the prose of this book was extremely beautiful and yet very simple. SD, you mentioned how we have read other best sellers (To Kill a Mocking Bird and The Outsiders) and I was wondering why I have never heard of this book and yet have heard of the others. This book is a wonderful composition that constructs all aspects of a young adult’s life (parents, school, love, etc.) just like those other best sellers so why hasn’t this book risen to fame? I think that this would be a great discussion point for future adult lit classes as well as some advanced students. I must admit that just like JMV I too was overcome with emotion and empathy while reading. The ending really really helped me understand the important of being an optimist as a opposed to a pessimistic no matter what the situation is. Tomorrow is never promise so why be angry?


  3. “Simple, yet profound” is an excellent way to describe this novel. I totally agree that students and adults alike can benefit from reading this book, as it warrants just as much of an emotional response as a tragic Shakespearean play (sans the more sophisticated vocabulary and content). If content is your goal for teaching this novel in your classroom, it is definitely a go. Many students will be able to empathize with what the family endures, as every family has experienced their own unique set of hardships. Additionally, it is equally interesting to analyze the coming-of-age aspect of the book, and adolescents are surely able to relate to Katie’s story.

  4. Hey SD and everyone else who responded to this post,
    I agree that Kira Kira was one of my favorite novels I read this semester. One of the important things that stood out to me was when the family moved to Georgia and encountered segregation. Since Katie’s family was Chinese, they did not know where they belonged. This means that America was not recognizing the diverse population that was increasing within its soil. It also reminds me, as a future educator that there are students who come from different countries so I’ll want to recognize the diversity of all my students by providing books like this one to show the American experience of all who lived here. The book talked about tough themes such as racism, death, and poverty. I also cried when Katie lost her best friend and sister Lynn. The scene where Katie and Lynn argued right before she passed away was very realistic. Like DML mentioned, I cannot believed that I never heard of this novel before but I am glad that we all had the opportunity to discover this great story. Thanks SD for mentioning Kadohata’s other book; it seems like something I’ll like to read.JA

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