Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Katie loves her big sister, Lynn, who sees even ordinary things in the world as kira-kira, a Japanese word for glittering. Born in the U.S. to Japanese parents, the girls face prejudices at school and watch their parents endure hardships to make ends meet in a predominantly white culture. When Lynn gets sick, the parents scrape every dime together to buy the house Lynn has always dreamed of. As a preteen, Katie finds herself acting as caregiver for her little brother and dying sister while her parents work long hours at chicken processing plants. Lynn's ultimate death brings out a range of difficult emotions for the family, but as they begin to heal, they take a trip to California — a place where Lynn always wanted to live — in her honor.
Lynn tells Katie that her spirit is the invisible part of her.
Other Belief Systems
The girls believe in a number of fantastic ideas such as a magic world, the possibility of creatures from outer space and the existence of Brenda, the ghost of a little girl who supposedly died in Brenda Swamp. Katie also suspects her mother can read her mind, so sometimes she thinks nonsense thoughts to throw Mom off.
Uncle Katsuhisa tells Katie some Buddhists believe a person's spirit leaves earth 49 days after the body dies. On the 49th day after Lynn's death, Katie sees a falling leaf that she believes is a sign from her sister. The author paints a bleak picture of the chicken factories without unionization. In the end, even Katie's previously passive parents stand up for the union.
The words darn, b---ch, godd--n and a variation of s--- each appear once or twice.
While the family is camping, Katie's aunt and uncle retreat to their tent during the day “to make a baby,” according to their young son. This prompts Katie to mention the time she heard her parents through the door trying to make a baby. She says it must have been a lot of work in light of all the grunting. Katie imagines being locked in the bathroom with a boy she likes and having to sleep with him in the bathtub (nothing sexual is implied).
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Readability Age Range
10 to 14
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
Newbery Medal Winner 2005; ALA Notable Children's Books 2005; Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, 2004-2005