by Cynthia Kadohata

Hardcover, 2006





Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2006), Edition: Reprint, 272 pages


Chronicles the close friendship between two Japanese-American sisters growing up in rural Georgia during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the despair when one sister becomes terminally ill.

Media reviews

Ms. Moore's Class
Have you ever been treated differently because of your heritage? Did your best friend/sister die when you were young? In this book a little girl named Katie goes through all of this. Kira-Kira is a beautiful piece of writing. The author Cynthia Kadohata did an amazing job on this book. She is an awesome writer. I love how it is from the perspective of a nine year old because it shows us what life growing up in that time was like for her Kira-Kira is a beautiful piece of writing. The book takes place in the 1950’s in Georgia right after the war, so they are treated differently because they are Japanese. The protagonist of the story is Lynn. Lynn is smart and nice and thinks everything is beautiful. Katie is her sister. Katie is a helping bigger sister to her brother Sammy. When Katie’s mom is working she took care of her brother. In Kira-Kira they are being treated differently. Katie’s whole family is affected. When they are getting a hotel room the lady was just being mean to them because they were Japanese. In Kira-Kira the resolution was they had to deal with being treated differently. In the story the protagonist learned not to give up. Lynn kept on fighting until she couldn’t handle it. I learned how hard it was to grow up in the 1950’s In conclusion I like the book Kira-Kira and I give it a 4 out of 5. The bad part about it was it was predictable. This book reminds me of when I was learning about Human rights. One strength of the book is when Katie and Lynn tried to help their parent save up money. One of the weakness when Lynn had a friend and had no time for Katie. Well I hope you like my opinion on Kira-Kira.
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Children's Literature
Angie Rogers (Children's Literature) This is the story of two Japanese-American sisters who move to rural Georgia from Iowa so that their parents can earn a better living. Katie, the younger sister from whose point of view the story is told, thinks that her sister Lynn is a genius who can do anything. As the story progresses and it becomes clear that the better living being earned by the parents means that they must work impossible schedules, it also becomes apparent that something is wrong with Lynn, who is often tired and sick. Lynn's greatest dream is for the family to move from the tiny apartment in which they live into their own house. When her parents, who never borrow money and do not trust banks, finally decide to get a loan to get Lynn's house, it is clear that her sickness must be serious. Finally, Katie's father tells her that Lynn has lymphoma. When Lynn finally dies, Katie assumes her role of keeping the family's dreams alive, despite the difficulties they are having emotionally and financially. This book would be especially good for students studying the aftermath of World War II on Japanese Americans. In addition, it would be excellent reading material for any student going through the loss of a family member. 2004, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $15.95. Ages 11 up.
Eileen Kuhl (VOYA, August 2004 (Vol. 27, No. 3)) Kadohata's touching story of sibling devotion is a glittering tale, as its Japanese title suggests. Set in 1950s rural Georgia, it recounts the story of a Japanese American family struggling against prejudice and exhausting labor at a poultry factory in order to build a rewarding life. Told from the perspective of young Katie from the age of five through twelve years old, the story offers her humorous and innocent observations of her close family and the important life lessons that she learns from her adored older sister, Lynn, who has encouraged Katie to dream and to appreciate everyday things. The inseparable sisters plan to spend their futures always close together; however, everything changes when Lynn gets sick and is diagnosed with lymphoma. The prolonged illness overwhelms the emotionally devastated family. Katie's mother and father become distant and impatient under the weight of the medical bills that threaten their home, and Katie, who had always been cared for by her older sister, must now become the caretaker, causing bitterness, anger, and confusion for the first time. Middle school girls will relate to Katie, her heartfelt everyday concerns, and her agony when Lynn dies. In the end, she tries to honor her sister's memory through the valuable lessons that Lynn taught her and by always looking for the glitter, the kira-kira in life. Readers who enjoyed Sis Deans's Everyday and All the Time (Henry Holt, 2003/VOYA October 2003) or The Letters by Kazumi Yumoto (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2002/VOYA October 2002) will appreciate this lyrical story of coping with death. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2004, Atheneum/S & S, 244p., $15.95. Ages 11 to 14. Subjects:

User reviews

LibraryThing member Whisper1
This is a 2005 Newberry Medal winner and the first book written by the author. As I turned the pages, I was aware that it would end and I wanted it to go on and on. A big thanks to Molly 4407 for recommending this one.

Set in the 1950's and 60's in Georgia, told from the voice of Katie, the middle child. One Japanese-
American family of only a few in the rural south, Katie's family learns of deep seated prejudice and poverty that grinds the soul.

Eeking out a living, the very proud Takeshima family literally work day and night to own a small home. While temporarily happy in their hard-earned accomplishment, their joy is soon overshadowed by the serious illness of their oldest child.

Kadohata's abiding theme of this wonderful book is the love Katie shares with her older sister and her family. Lynn is the mentor of Katie, the one who taught her to look at life through the words "kira-kira", meaning glittering, sparkly.

As Lynn's life ebbs away, through grief and pain, the lessons taught to Katie by her sister and family shine through.

I'm frustrated in writing this review because the book that is so stunningly special that words are elusive.

Simply stated: This is a MUST read.

There are not enough (Kira-Kira) sparkling stars or words to describe it.
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LibraryThing member buoyread
Katie and her family's life is anything but kira-kira—the life of Japanese Americans in the 1950s was anything but glittering due to the "Anti-Japanese sentiment" across America. Katie could see reality: no one wants to make friends with her at school, not even with her sister Lynn, despite her natural charm and brilliance at schoolwork and her father had to work back-breaking hours to provide for his family. On the other hand, Lynn, despite also seeing reality, chose to be the optimist and was the one who taught Katie to see things differently, that all things are kira-kira.

The author has drawn perfectly believable characters, from the humble, hardworking father, to the sweet, adoring little brother. Their voices are clear and their words are accurate. Katie describes her world with the simplicity and practicality you would expect from her age, and a natural awe for her older sister. Added to the mix are interesting characters, Uncle Katsuhisa and his family, Amber, and Silly, who provide the necessary humor and perspective that turns the plot from an otherwise depressing narrative to a hopeful, coming of age story of a young girl and her family.

Winner of the 2005 Newberry Medal, this novel, though sad, will not disappoint. It is a story of hope at its core, convincing the readers to find the kira-kira in little things, reminding everyone to keep dreaming big, and appreciating the world for all its flaws.
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LibraryThing member KarriesKorner
Oh, do you ever wish a book could just go on? Kira-kira is such a beautiful piece of writing that the story has stayed with me since I finished it two days ago. It's one of those books that makes you feel like nothing you read after that will compare. The richness of the characters is what drives this story, and by the end of the book I felt as if I knew each and every one of them.

This is the story of a Japanese-American family named Takeshima. Katie, the middle child, is the narrator of their story. She is very close to her siblings, Lynn and Sammy, and their lives revolve around each other. When Katie is a very small child, Lynn teaches her the title word, Kira-Kira, which is the Japanese word for glittery or shiny. It is ironic that kira-kira becomes an important word between the girls, because their lives would not appear to be kira-kira to the outside world. Their parents, in an effort to accomplish their dream to own their own home, move the family to Georgia so that they can work in a poultry factory. As they are working themselves into exhaustion, the children are constant and loving companions to each other. As the kids assimilate into school life in Georgia, where the local people are less than welcoming, they remain each other's best friends. Together they play, talk, support each other, and dream of what life will be in the future. They create a sense of happiness and brightness around themselves.

When their parents dream of owning their own home comes to fruition, the Takeshima family is very proud and they are all convinced that their lives will be forever good. But the joy of owning a piece of the American dream is soon destroyed by Lynn's growing health problems. As Lynn's kira-kira diminishes, the reader is left with a heavy heart for Katie and her family.

Kira-kira is a beautiful story about spirit and strength. Kadohata's writing flows like a mountain stream, taking the reader with her. It's quietly dramatic, yet completely engaging. The story takes place over years, and the characters develop and change in obvious and subtle ways, just like children do in real life. Katie is not a magnificent, larger-than-life character in the way, say, Harry Potter is. She's a normal little girl, sometimes struggling in school, sometimes trying to find her way in a world that is familiar yet foreign to her. Even though life deals her some difficult cards, Katie is always guided by the love of her family. The reader can take comfort knowing that wherever Katie goes, the sweetness of her personality and love in her heart will always keep the kira-kira surrounding her.
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LibraryThing member LibraryOMidas
Told from the life of young Katie Takeshima this story will have you crying in no time. While it's simple to read, the book loses none of the beauty that comes with being a great writer. Cynthia Kadohata uses the voice of a small Japanese-American girl growing up in Iowa in the 50's and 60's with her family. As if life wasn't hard enough for an immigrant family in those times, this family has the added worry of a sick child. The bond between Katie and Lynnie is one that will have you picking up more tissues because you have run out. An absolutely adorable story.… (more)
LibraryThing member elpowers
Touching and sad, but beautifully written.
LibraryThing member Omrythea
In the 1950s, a Japanese American family that is financially down on their luck moves from Iowa to Georgia in search of jobs that will allow them to buy their own home. Little sister Katie idolizes her older sister Lynn who has a unique, positive outlook on life. The story chronicles Katie as she grows up. Little brother Sam is added to the family. Her parents work difficult jobs with long hours in non-unionized chicken hatcheries and poultry plants. Her family endures prejudicial conditions in numerous situations. As the kids continue to grow up, it becomes apparent that something is making Lynn very ill. The family struggles to remain strong as Lynn’s condition becomes more and more serious.
A sweet and touching book. Worth the read.
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LibraryThing member bibliophile26
The 2005 Newbery Medal Winner. This is a story of a Chinese American family living in Georgia in the 1950's. A heartbreaking struggle of an immigrant family's struggles in the "land of opportunity."
LibraryThing member mariaft
Chronicles the close friendship between two Japanese-American sisters growing up in rural Georgia during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the despair when one sister becomes terminally ill. kira-kira (kee' ra kee' ra): glittering; shining 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.

Thumbs up!
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LibraryThing member mairz
This book was amazing from the stories to the characters. The closeness of the family relationships and how it gave a clear view of what the Asian American family had to go through during a high time of racism in America. This book is about how kids change so suddenly. If you've ever felt like you were different from everyone else or if you've had close ties with your sisters, you would love this book. Also, I thought this book was really funny. The characters were so much like people that I knew.

PS - someone below me wrote a review that they were Chinese American, and honestly, no offense to the Chinese, but how can you clearly get that one SO wrong? The book is called KIRAKIRA and there are so many Japanese references in the book. Plus, the setting was post WWII. If you read the book, you'd understand how much that bothers me. It seems like they copied and pasted a fake review.
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LibraryThing member staceybr
Loved it!
Ten tissue book.
I just finished this book and I really thought that it was true to the time, the bond between Lynne and Katie was well thought out and developed and the strength of the family was so evident.
LibraryThing member delphica
(#20 in the 2005 book challenge)

This is the 2005 Newbery (with one R) award winner. I'd been meaning to read it, and then my friend pricciar read it recently and that reminded me to pick it up. This is about a girl and her family living in a small town in Georgia in the 1950s, and my favorite thing about it was that the family is Japanese-American and yet it wasn't the sort of thing where the entire point was about their being Japanese-American. It came up, but only where it made sense in the story. That was refreshing. Anyway, it was one of those quiet stories about a family, focusing mostly on the narrator's relationship with her older sister, with some very nice writing and good handling of complicated emotions. It's always hard to talk about a Newbery book, because a book can be good, but then there is sometimes a question of "but is it good for a Newbery?" This, IMHO, is the second year in a row that the award didn't have a particularly strong slate.

Grade: B+.
Recommended: It's definitely good for anyone who likes to keep up with "hot" kidlit, also a nice (and also sad) story about sisters.
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LibraryThing member MrStevens
I enjoyed this book immensely. The characters were believable and natural to read. I would recommend this to any child. But that is not saying a lot since I have yet to meet a Newberry book I didn't like.
LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
Written as if written by a child. Makes it hard to empathize with the events, because the words are so simplistic. Not my favorite Newbery.
LibraryThing member lieslmayerson
One of my friends who is an English professor at SMU recommended Kira-Kira to me. I picked it up on the faith of her recommendation and am so glad I did. It is a brilliant story of a first-generation Japanese-American girl, Katie, living with her family in rural Georgia in the 1950s. It is a hard story, but is somewhat refreshing with Katie's perfect descriptions of what she is seeing around her.The target audience for Kira-Kira is much younger than me, but I felt that nothing was lost having read it at 31. Katie pulled me into her point of view and it did not matter that I am probably closer in age to her parents. It brought me to tears, but also let me be ok with the way things are, just as Katie learned to be. I highly recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Beautifully written, rich characters, and a storyline worth hearing.… (more)
LibraryThing member hdusty
excellent historical story of two japanese-american girls in georgia, parents working in chicken factories during the depression.
LibraryThing member mcollier
This book is really sad. I felt bad for Katie when she was yelling at Lynn because Lynn wanting milk then water then milk again. I'm don't say I blame her because Lynn was being whinny. My favorite part of the book is when Katie gives her speech at Lynn's funeral. It was short and sweet. I laughed when she kept thinking " Where are my notecards?".… (more)
LibraryThing member dcarlill
Starts slow, but moves into a heart felt story of two sisters who are Japanese Americans and the hardships of growing up in Georgia in the 60's not being white. They weren't black or "colored" but weren't white and didn't exactly know what people thought of them and their family. When Lynn gets sick the story of two sisters who are very close becomes one of tears, joy, and love.… (more)
LibraryThing member mcivalleri
This is a pretty heavy book for a teen book. But books like this need to be available to kids, I think, because it is part of the range of things that happen in life. Not everything is space ships and cartoons. There are several sub-groups that might really identify. I think girls would identify more than boys. Asian people might identify, and relating to the racism, virtually every race can identify. Those who have undergone tragedy, whether just a big move or their parents losing a job, or a huge event like a death in the family, would certainly relate. There's a lot of emotion in this book. But it is powerful and meaningful.… (more)
LibraryThing member debnance
Katie is Japanese-American and she adores her older sister, Lynn. Their parents close their Oriental food market in Iowa and must move to Georgia to find work in the chicken-processing plants there. It is a hard life. The family is poor, but “…in the way Japanese people are poor, meaning (they) never borrowed money from anyone, period.” Lynn is Katie’s idol and the two girls are wonderful friends. Lynn teaches Katie all she has learned in life. Then Lynn becomes weak and ill and the family is shaken to the core.… (more)
LibraryThing member lieslmayerson
One of my friends who is an English professor at SMU recommended Kira-Kira to me. I picked it up on the faith of her recommendation and am so glad I did. It is a brilliant story of a first-generation Japanese-American girl, Katie, living with her family in rural Georgia in the 1950s. It is a hard story, but is somewhat refreshing with Katie's perfect descriptions of what she is seeing around her.The target audience for Kira-Kira is much younger than me, but I felt that nothing was lost having read it at 31. Katie pulled me into her point of view and it did not matter that I am probably closer in age to her parents. It brought me to tears, but also let me be ok with the way things are, just as Katie learned to be. I highly recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Beautifully written, rich characters, and a storyline worth hearing.… (more)
LibraryThing member juanitaloo
The author captures so well the struggle a family goes through when someone has a long-term illness and eventually dies. She describes well conflicting emotions (guilt, anger, sorrow, and happiness) one experiences when grieving the loss of a loved one and how confusing it must be for a person around 10 years old. A bittersweet story of hope, love, and resilience.… (more)
LibraryThing member crochetbunnii
Personal Response:

I enjoyed Katie's perspective on this often sad, sometimes whimsical tale. My favorite parts are when Katie describes speaking to her beloved stuffed animal, Bera-Bera, or her future love-of-her-life, Joe-John Abondondalarama. These narratives remind the reader that she is still a young girl dealing with some grown up issues and shows how imaginative and intelligent she is, despite her C Average. I also enjoy her book reviews, because I feel I write very similar reviews.

Lynn's perspective that kira-kira can be seen in everything and that her influence over Katie leaves a lasting effect that helps her cope with her sister's death.

Curricular Connections:
This story can help children coping with loss and death. Even the simpler aspects of sisters growing up so close and then growing apart as age separates them is something most children can relate to. This book may be part of a wider curriculum involving racism in America during the 1950s, as it offers a unique perspective that is not discussed as often in this context.
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LibraryThing member aimeeredshoes
Great book, but Newbery needs to get away from such heavy books.
LibraryThing member mathqueen
Kadohata did a great job of bringing characters to life in this, her first novel for young adults. The characters were very well developed, making the story all the more believable and genuine. The reader was able to feel the closeness between the sisters, the struggles the parents endured, and the loss that they all felt at the end of Lynn’s life. There were so many powerful scenes written into this story it becomes a roller coaster ride of emotions for the reader! The depth of grief becomes so real and encompassing the reader can actually feel the loss. Lynn was the constant in Katie’s life. When Lynn is gone, Katie knows it is her to make her life kira-kira for her family and herself. While the themes of Japanese-American hardships and labor issues are addressed in this book, the story becomes so much more complex and compelling with its underlying themes. A GREAT read!
Library Implications: One of the most important things to Lynn and eventually Katie is the diary. Students could be encouraged to start their own journal. They could write for a week and then discuss the topics they wrote about. Students could compare and contrast topics of importance and why they included those thoughts in their diaries. Students could also research diaries kept by famous people. Readers could also focus on the labor movements of the time period and how unions have come to affect the job market and economy.
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LibraryThing member justine.marxer
Genre: Realistic fiction

Review: This is an excellent example of realistic fiction. The story is believable and the reader feels like they are reading a true story. The reader is able to empathize with Katie when she has to move, then finds her sister is terminally ill.

Point of View: the author uses the first person point of view. Katie, the main character, is narrating the story. The reader gets into her head, and is able to see her perspective on things.… (more)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

272 p.; 5.13 inches


0689856407 / 9780689856402


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