After 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.
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.