Cynthia Kadohata



Cynthia Kadohata
Atheneum, 2004
hardcover: 978-0689856396

What the Book's About

A story about the things you can change, and the things you can’t.

kira-kira (kee’ ra kee′ ra): glittering; shining

Glittering. That’s how Katie Takeshima’s sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people’s eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it’s Lynn who explains to her why people stop them on the street to stare. And it’s Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering—kira-kira—in the future.

Luminous in its persistence of love and hope, Kira-Kira is a stunning book.

What Other People Have to Say

2005 Newbery Medal winner!
ALA Notable Children’s Books
Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
Booklinks Lasting Connections
Booklist Editors’ Choice
Capitol Choices List (DC)
Cooperative Children’s Book Council Choices
Junior Library Guild selection
Kiriyama Prize Notable Book
KSRC Middle School Titles, Top Pick
NYPL “Books for the Teen Age”

As voted on by kid readers:

Blue Spruce YA Book Award Nominee (CO)
Charlotte Award Reading List (NY)
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award master (VT)
Garden State Teen Book Award nominee
Nene Award Master List (HI)
Pacific Northwest Young Reader’s Choice Award Master List
Thumbs Up! Award Master List (MI)

“This is a heartbreaking, gorgeous book written from the point of view of young Katie, who is only 10 when her 14 year old sister falls sick and dies. The prose is clear, simple and authentic and, most importantly, is clearly touching the hearts of young readers as you can see by the reader reviews posted at BookBrowse 

“It is particularly interesting to note how glowingly positive these reviews are considering that most of the reviewers read Kira-Kira as a school assignment. Over the years, I’ve read many thousands of reviews posted at BookBrowse, and those that have been written by students for school projects run the gamut from positive to negative, but more often than not they tend towards the vitriolic or just plain bored…” (Bookbrowse)

“Kadohata’s spare, lovely images stayed in my head long after I turned the last page. And my 11-year-old was so entranced that she finished the book in a single sitting.” (Entertainment Weekly)

Kira-Kira is heartbreaking, brilliant, and might as easily be read by a 41-year-old as a 14-year-old …in works of literature for the young, the tragic and the comic forever travel hand in hand. Kira-Kira raises this mix to a level of highest art. (Boston Globe)

A beautiful e-mail

… sent to me by reader Helen. I appreciate e-mails like this so much!!

Hi there. I wrote about how your book Kira-Kira affected me as kid, how it affects me now. I notice that many of my friends who have read Kira-Kira become immediately emotional at its mention. 

I was nine years old. My mom and I were on a flight from Seattle to New York. It was my first time flying across the country. I sat in the middle seat, B. My mom sat two rows behind me by window A. Thick beams of sunlight cut across the aisles, illuminating the interior of the plane. The woman next to me had a stack of papers on the tray table in front of her. She wrote all over them in red pen. She must have been a teacher. I wanted to impress her. From my backpack, I pulled out my own book. Kira-Kira. Light from the window in our row pooled into my lap. My thighs warmed. I started to read.

An hour into reading, the woman asked me if I was okay. “You’re crying, honey.” Tears glided down my cheeks. I clenched my teeth and tried to stop the sadness. It didn’t work. I was glad my mom was two rows behind and wouldn’t see me cry. I’ve always felt more comfortable crying in front of strangers. “I’m O.K.,” I told the woman. It was true. I was okay. I would always be okay.

It was my sister who wouldn’t be okay. I realized this for the first time while reading Kira-Kira on the plane that day.

I was nine years old, but I had seen the scars on my sister’s chest and stomach. I had counted the pills in her drawer. I had watched her try to fall asleep. People like her and Lynn, didn’t get better. They got sick. Then they got more sick. Some days would be bad. Other days would be worse. Eventually, they would all be bad.

When you see a character in a film reading a book, it usually means something. Sometimes it’s a theme or motif to pay closer attention to. Sometimes it’s a foreshadowing device. When I think of Kira-Kira today, I think of it like a movie prop. It’s in the movie I keep playing over and over in my head, the movie I can’t change or turn off.

I’m watching it now. There’s a wide-angle shot of nine-year-old me reading Kira-Kira. I’m basking in sunlight spilling in from an airplane window. Dust particles swirl above my light brown hair. The next scenes are set in hospital waiting rooms. I’m tugging at my mom’s sweater. “She’ll be O.K., won’t she?” Time passes. I find a copy of Kira-Kira in a used bookstore and I buy it. I put it on the bookshelf by my bed. More time passes. Now, we’re all aware how quickly time goes. Mom says there’s not much of it left. She asks me to come home. I do. I help my sister move into my room because it’s big enough to fit a normal bed and her new homecare bed. For the second time in my life, I realize my sister is dying. She’s dying just like Lynn.

There’s a shot of my sister and me by her bed. The blinds are drawn. I’m spooning steamed eggs into her mouth because she’s too sick to do it herself. On the bookshelf behind us, there’s a copy of Kira-Kira, and the camera lingers on it for a moment. I want people to know. Kira-Kira told me how the rest of my life would be before I lived it.


Cynthia Kadohata
Atheneum, 2004
hardcover: 978-0689856396

Available in hardcover, paperback, audio book, and e-book formats

Available in simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian,
Italian, Romanian, Serbian, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese

Newbery Medal
Receiving the call at 4:26 a.m. telling me Kira-Kira had won the Newbery.
(Ignore the messy table in the background. I don’t know who that belongs to.)