by Cynthia Kadohata
* * * Stars (Pretty good)
I love how this book is sprinkled with Japanese words. And not just ones that you would hear anyway, but things like “kira-kira” – glittering – or “katsu” – triumph. This is the story of Katie’s family, how they move from a small Japanese community in Iowa to an even smaller Japanese community in Georgia. Katie, from the time she is born, is encircled in the love of her older sister, Lynn. And later, Katie offers the same kind of love to her younger brother, Sam. Their lives are difficult, for their parents work long hours to support them all. Their father works as a chicken sexer and their mother processes chicken in a meat packing plant. The Georgia community where they live isn’t accustomed to Japanese people, and don’t make them feel particularly welcome. And things go from bad to worse when Lynnie becomes ill. For years they think that she’s anemic, but later they learn that she has lymphoma – after that diagnosis, Lynn’s health slowly declines and it is Katie who has to care for her. I think that Japanese is the perfect language for finding great beauty in the world with small perfect words. There’s so much in this story that glitters, despite all of the hardships that the family faces, and so much love. If Lynne is the smart, responsible one, Katie is the silly one. Her storytelling voice sounds the perfect note – humor gently stirred into sadness. The idea of Katie and her siblings speaking with southern accents cracks me up every time I think about it.
Grade level recommendation: 5-8 Lexile: 740
Reviewed by YA Librarian