Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Cynthia Kadohata

“It’s not fair.” As an adult I get so very tired of hearing children (and adults) say that. So many times what’s not fair is the trivial stuff – people who don’t get things exactly the way they might want. But there are many things that aren’t fair. It isn’t fair when parents have to work two jobs in order to try and provide for their children. It isn’t fair when children are ignored because they are a different race than those around them. It isn’t fair when a child gets cancer.

It’s the 1950’s and Katie Takeshima’s family is moving from Iowa to Georgia. Katie is not eager to move but her parents’ store has failed and they’ve been promised work in some poultry processing plants. Her parents’ dream is to own a home, and they literally work night and day in order to achieve it. Katie and her sister Lynn are very close and they look after each other while their parents work. As one of the very few Oriental families in town, they suffer from the prejudice of the townspeople, but that is not a central theme of the novel. Over time a new brother is born, and then Lynn begins to feel weak. The doctors blame it on anemia but the iron she takes and the liver she eats don’t seem to help. Eventually the truth is revealed – Lynn has lymphoma.

This is a beautiful, sad book that is primarily about relationships. Obviously, the relationship between Katie and Lynn is the most important, but all of the family relationships in the book have importance. Katie’s parents’ fierce desire to provide for their children means that they to some degree sacrifice their relationship with their kids – they are either at work or exhausted from working all the time. In today’s time, we might tell them not to work so hard – that they needed to show their love by spending time with their kids – but they expressed their love by trying to ensure that their children would have their own home and the opportunity to finish school and to go to college.

Kira-Kira won a Newbery in 2004 and it is well-deserved.

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