Kira-kira in Japanese means “glittering”, or “shining”. The story is about the relationship between two Japanese sisters who grew up in rural America in early 1950s. Katie adores her elder sister Lynn very much, her world is built around Lynn’s. It’s just natural because she was younger and Lynn is always the genius and the one who knows what to do. Vice versa, Lynn is protective and loving to Katie. Her lively personality is the colours to Katie’s childhood.
Katie recalls the many memories she had back in Iowa, when her parents didn’t forever working around the clock, when Lynn was always there to teach her how to see the sky, about the stars, about everything especially the world as a place that shines, a place that glitters with magic on its many detail. Although Katie believes that she owes Lynn for how she is now, Katie herself has a very expressive way of capturing something. I was laughing hard so many times reading about her thoughts.
Life is tougher when their family moved to Georgia, where the people are often harsh to them because they have different skin colour. The story shifts from a happier setting to a gloomy one as the family constantly face turbulence. Through Katie’s narration, we get to see how the family’s condition and mood started to change. They didn’t necessarily fall apart, for they still keep the closeness within them. It’s just that their condition is getting worse. Mr and Mrs Takeshima work long hours, they no longer have time to chat and have fun. When Lynn reaches her teen age, she becomes seriously ill and Katie has to resume her sister’s place being the keeper. Despite her feeling of being abandoned and Lynn’s failing health, Katie never changes the way she looks up to her elder sister.
I almost feel sorry for Katie because she is forced to grow up and be a big girl in this way, with grief, especially because she lose her attachment with Lynn during her sick days. There was one time when both of them claimed they hated each other. It was heartbreaking because we know they didn’t mean that.
This book is a treasure, a kind that I don’t mind buying one or two copies extra for the sake of sharing. It teaches us about friendship and loyalty, about endless love and self-respect. The story may be a little sad, but it has something hopeful in it. It lets us laugh and smile genuinely as we see Katie grows. With Katie, we appreciate small things that matter in life, about something kira-kira we have now and that waits for us in the future.
Kira-kira is a debut novel for children from Cynthia Kadohata. This novel won the Newberry Medal in 2005. Her next children novel, “Weedflower”, is now available on bookstores.