Name of Book: Kira-Kira
Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Publisher: Aladdin Paperbacks
Audience: Ages 10-12
Summary: Katie and her sister Lynn live in Iowa in the 1950’s where her parents own a Japanese store. The family moves to Chesterfield, GA so the girls’ father can work in a hatchery there. They move into a cheap apartment building where other Japanese families live. Katie and Lynn’s mother also goes to work in a poultry factory nearby in a non-union position with poor working conditions. Katie and Lynn witness and experience racism in the small town. While the family is in Georgia, Lynn becomes ill with cancer and eventually dies. Although she is grieving, Katie holds her family together during a difficult time and is able to experience “kira-kira” once again.
Literary elements at work in the story: The genre of the story is historical realistic fiction. Characterization is the main literary element at work in this book. Lynn, the oldest child, always seems to view the world from an optimistic point of view. She taught her younger sister Katie the phrase “kira-kira” which in Japanese means glittering. Lynn seems to be able to notice “glittering” in her world in the midst of prejudice, unfair work practices, and living in poverty. Katie who was always the follower of her sister takes on Lynn’s role when Lynn becomes sick and dies. It is Katie in the end of the story who is able to see the “kira-kira” in life that Lynn taught her about when she was a baby.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic ability: The perspective of race and culture are highlighted in this book. Katie’s Japanese family and the others that they share a life with in Georgia in the 1950’s are clearly set apart from society, labeled as lower class, and are victims of prejudice. The parents must work in poor conditions for a very rich white man named Mr. Lyndon who only cares about making money and highly discourages the formation of a union in any of his factories. This story clearly illustrates a type of prejudice that is still very much present in our world today that is easily “glossed” over by many. Despite the poor living conditions, the Japanese who live in Chesterfield, Georgia illustrate the fact that their culture is one in which families band together and care for one another no matter what.
Scripture: Romans 8:28, Psalm 8, Psalm 30:11-12
Theology: There is no horror or tragedy so great that God cannot redeem it and bend it to God’s purposes. This does not mean that because we are Christians, horrors and tragedies in our lives are somehow minimized or made any less painful BUT yet God in spite of it all can still work in and through them. There is nothing in all creation that is outside the sovereignty of God. Because God is with us in the midst of suffering, joy will come again.
Faith Talk Questions:
- How does Katie change in this story?
- Who in our society today does the character of Mr. Lyndon represent?
- Why is Katie surprised by Hank Garvin?
- Lynn once told her sister Katie that their father “accepted rudeness and unfairness to himself, just as he accepted work.” (210) Why did he change this way of thinking?
- Katie says that when her father moved Lynn’s bed and apologized to Mr. Lyndon that he realized his family had a choice. “Either we could be an unhappy family forever or not.”(236) What does this mean? How is it played out in the story?
- Where do you see, hear, or feel “kira-kira” in your life today? How would you explain “kira-kira” to someone else?
Review prepared by Marcia Rauch, MACE, Entering cohort Fall 2006
Kira-Kira by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.