Katie Takeshima and her sister Lynn have been the total opposites since birth. Lynn is extremely smart while Katie struggles to pass her classes. Lynn is clean and orderly while Katie is just a ball of mess. While Katie is a tomboy, Lynn is a delicate flower of girly-ness. Yet, since birth, the two have shared a bond so strong that makes the world around them Kira-Kira: glitter/sparkle. The very first word Katie learns, thanks to the guidance of her sister Lynn in their rented home in Iowa is kira kira. Everything to them is has glitter aspect to it. The sky and sea are filled with kira-kira. After their move to Georgia, Katie’s role model, Lynn, meets Amber and they become best friends. Katie begins to hate the way Lynn follows Amber’s ways and eventually attaches herself to her younger brother Sammy. Lynn and Amber work up Katie’s nerves up until the point where Lynn becomes unusually sick. Katie’s parents tell her its only anemia. Realizing that it must be something more, Katie watches her parents every move, including the most important, taking out a loan against their beliefs so that it could be “Lynn’s” house. As Lynn’s health begins to deteriorate slowly, Katie slowly begins to understand her sister’s reality. Katie becomes the head of the household in terms of in-home responsibilities as her parents restlessly work at the different hatcheries owned by Mr. Lyndon. Katie becomes her brother’s nurturer, the house cleaner, and the number one caregiver for Lynn while she wasn’t at school. Katie begins to feel frustrated over Lynn’s health, her unintentionally nasty ways of demanding things or actions, her parent’s lack of attention in the house and to her and her brother, and her constant failing grades in school, bring her to a moment of ultimate frustration but it isn’t until Lynn dies that Katie is able to push and see the kira-kira of everything around her. Left with her sister’s diary and desires, Katie brings kira-kira to everything and everyone around her in honor of her sister Lynn.
Written in the first person, Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata embodies a fictional world full of empathy and forces the reader to never drop the book. Given a full perspective of the racial disparities for Japanese-Americans in the united states during the 1960-70’s Kira Kira tells the story of a young girl’s transition into adolescence and the struggles and obstacles faced during that process. Katie’s story forces the reader to empathize the events and situations with her and her emotions.