Katie Takeshima, the narrator of this coming-of-age novel, moved with her immigrant family from Iowa to Georgia when she was in kindergarten. As her parents work long hours in a poultry processing plant with other exploited non-union immigrant workers, she and her older sister Lynn, and her little brother, Sammy, enjoy a loving and fairly free childhood. Lynn is Katie's primary teacher. Among her most important lessons is to see everything around her as "kira kira"--a Japanese word meaning something like "glittering"--moving and alive. When Lynn sickens and then dies of lymphoma, Katie has to do some fast growing up, and in her mourning develops a sharper sense of the glittering, mysterious presence of spirit and life in a world full of prejudice, poverty, and loss.


This is a beautifully narrated story about a common American immigrant experience, complicated by the issue of a child's illness and death. Katie's own developing awareness of how her Japanese background sets her apart from her schoolmates in Georgia makes the story poignant, but at times also amusing. She is daring in her care for her sister and brother, and for her family against those who exploit them. She has a lively curiosity about everything around her, from the process of killing and processing chickens to the politics of unionization to the causes of illness and strategies for coping with death. A wonderful intoduction to some basic growing-up issues, especially in cross-cultural context.


Kira Kira won the Newbery Medal in 2005.



Place Published

New York



Page Count