Kira-Kira

Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Reading Range: 4.8
Interest Range: MG
Plot:  This story is set during the 1950s and it involves the Takeshima family who are Japanese. The story is told through the eyes of the middle child, Katie. Katie is telling the story of her family but also of her sister, Lynn. The girls are very close and shared everything. Lynn taught Katie to call everything kira-kira, which means glittering in Japanese.  Lynn is the beautiful, smart and popular daughter while Katie is the middle child. They have a Japanese grocery store in Iowa that goes broke because there are not enough Asian people to frequent the store. They moves to Chesterfield, Georgia so the mother and father can work in the chicken hatcheries where Uncle Katsuhisa has gotten them jobs. The parents work very hard to provide a minimal existence for their children. After several years of living in Georgia, Lynn becomes ill. At first,Katie’s parents keep telling her it is because her sister is anemic. Katie has to take over more and more responsibilities as her sister gets sicker. She must care for her little brother, Sam, as her parents work more and more to help take care of Lynn.Katie’s parents finally tell her Lynn is dying. The family has to get ready to say goodbye to Lynn.
Review: This story shows the love that two sisters can have for each other. Katie loves her sister. Her sister is the center of their family. She is the one they think is going to go far. She tries to give them hope even when they are struggling. That is what she meant by kira-kira. There are so many wonderful things in this world. She tries to tell Katie how wonderful she is. The Takeshima family struggles with racism and poverty. The parents work at a chicken hatchery where they are treated like slaves. The owner is cruel to his workers. He works them as hard as he can. It becomes harder for the family when Lynn becomes sick. They have to work even more to pay for her medicine. Lynn knew she was dying in the story. She tries to leave something beyond for her family to have hope after she dies. One of the themes of this story is to still have hope even when things are hard and bleak. This is a tough story to read because there are no easy answers. I would recommend this book to kids who like reading sad yet hopeful stories.
Additional Info:
 This book won the Newbury Medal for literature in 2005.
Main Characters:
Katie Takeshima-Katie is the middle daughter. She is the one who tells the story.
Lynn Takeshima-Lynn is the oldest daughter. She is smart and talented. She develops cancer.
Sam Takeshima-Sam is the youngest son.
Kiyoko Takeshima-Kiyoko is Katie, Sam, and Lynn’s mother. She is delicate and nervous but practical.
Masao Takeshima-Masao is the father of Katie, Lynn and Sam. He is a quiet and thoughtful man.
Uncle Katsuhisa-Katsuhisa is Masao’s brother. He helps the family after they lose their grocery store.

Theme:  Coming of age, Death, Everlasting love, Injustice, Love and sacrifice

Bibliographic Info:

Kadohata, Cynthia. (2004). Kira Kira. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks.

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A Monster Calls-Review

Author:  Patrick Ness
Reading Range: 4.8
Interest Range:   Young Adult (Follett Library)
Plot:  Conor’s mother has cancer.  He is alone trying to deal with that fact.  One night, a monster comes to him and tells him that he will tell him three stories and Conor has to tell him one in return.  This story is about what Conor fears the most otherwise, he will eat him. As the monster tells his stories, Conor discovers that people are more complex then he realizes.  Conor starts to realize that his mother is not as well as she says.  In fact, his mother has been downplaying how sick she really is.  Conor hopes the monster is here to heal his mother but who is the monster really here for?
Review:  This is a hard book because it is talking about how a boy who is trying to deal with dead and dying.  Conor is only thirteen but he has to handle issues that most adults have trouble dealing with.  There are no easy answers in this book.  The monster is both cruel and kind telling Conor the truths he need to let his mother go. Conor is not perfect.  He is trying to find his way through his mother’s illness.  I would recommend this book to people who like stories that are not easy and do not mind crying.
Additional Info:  This book is based on an idea by the author, Siobhan Dowd.  She died of breast cancer before she could write it.  Patrick Ness took the outline she created and wrote the story.
Main Characters:
Conor O’Malley-His mother is sick with cancer.   He has become “the boy whose mother has cancer” at his school.  He hates that.
Conor’s Mother-She has cancer.  She is not truthful with Conor about how sick she really is.
Liam-Conor’s father who lives in American with his new wife and child.
Grandmother-His mother’s mother.  He does not get along with her.  She is caring for Conor while his mother is in the hospital.

Theme: Circle of lifeDeath,Growing up,Isolation, Loss of innocence

Bibliographic Info: Ness, P. (2011). A monster calls. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

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