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Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

09th January 2008

Kira-KiraKatie and her family are 4 of only a handful of Japanese people living in their tiny Georgian town. Her parents work long hours at the poultry factory, saving up to buy their own house. Katie doesn’t really mind, because she’s usually busy spending time with her best friend–her big sister Lynn. Lynn is a genius, and makes everything beautiful. But when Lynn becomes ill, Katie must learn to stand on her own, and bring her family back together again.

I listened to this book on CD. It drew me in right away, and kept my interest all the way through. Katie is a fantastic character. Although the subject of the book is somewhat serious, Kadohata frequently uses humorous understatements and sarcasm (in the style of children’s author, Mercer Meyer) to lighten the tension. I’m looking forward to reading more by Kadohata.

I know this comment is going to make me sound old and cranky (“Oh, the good old days. . .”) but I’m going to say it anyway. Authors just don’t write books for young adults like this one anymore. Paterson’s book is an award winning classic for so many reasons:

  • The setting (island in the Chesapeake Bay) is both realistic and spectacular .
  • Louise’s struggles (jealousy of her sister; fighting for her parent’s love; longing to belong) are very real.
  • The island characters are unique without being quirky, and they have depth without being pretentious.
  • The plot is simple, but you are immediately engaged in Louise’s life.

However, the most satisfying part of the book for me is the ending. Louise’s problems don’t magically disappear. But through hard work and time, Louise learns to understand her own family, come to peace with her own life, and can even use her own experiences to help others.

Criss Cross

27th March 2006

Criss Cross (Newbery Medal Book)The plot of this book is hard to describe. It follows the lives of 6 or so young teenagers, all of whom are looking for love and friendship and a place to belong. Their lives criss cross in a myriad of important and unimportant ways. Some of the characters find what they are looking for, some don’t, and some merely don’t recognize what they’ve found when they find it. I reached the end of the book thinking that I had just begun to understand how the characters were linked, and also feeling that I had missed some things and should read it again.