53 pages 1 hour read

Cynthia Kadohata


Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2004

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Important Quotes

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“My sister, Lynn, taught me my first word: Kira-kira. I pronounced it ka-a-ahhh, but she knew what I meant. Kira-kira means glittering in Japanese. Lynn told me that when I was a baby, she used to take me onto our empty road at night, where we could lie on our backs and look at the stars while she said over and over again, ‘Katie, say ‘kira-kira kira-kira.’ I loved that word! When I grew older, I used kira-kira to describe everything I like: the beautiful blue sky, puppies, kittens, butterflies, colored Kleenex.

(Chapter 1, Page 1)

In this first paragraph, Kadohata introduces several significant thematic elements and practices that repeat throughout the narrative. First is the close, loving relationship between the sisters, who adore one another. Second is the ability to find beauty in things that seem commonplace. Third is the willingness of the girls to step out and experience new settings with openness: lying on a country road, venturing into fields and pecan groves, exploring their parents’ workplaces.

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“We were poor, but in the way Japanese are poor, meaning we never borrowed money from anyone, period. Meaning once a year we bought as many 50-pound bags of rice as we could afford, and we didn’t get nervous again about the money until we reached our last bag. Nothing went to waste in our house.”

(Chapter 2, Page 16)

Katie’s comments demonstrate the way a lower-class, Japanese immigrant family approached survival in the US in the decades following World War II. Using credit or borrowing from others was typically considered anathema. Also, regardless of the meagerness of their income, families of Japanese origin tended to save part of their funds for large purchases or emergencies. Thus, when the Takeshimas seek a mortgage loan to buy “Lynn’s house,” the author implies a great sacrifice they make on behalf of a dying child.

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“We pretended to smoke cigarettes like the floozies. But we got back in the car before our mother returned, because if she saw us looking like floozies, it might make her so upset that she would need to take an aspirin. Then our father would worry and he might not drive as well and they would get in an accident and get killed. That’s why, even though I liked being bad all the time, I tried hard to be good.”

(Chapter 3, Page 25)

The sisters largely maintain a bond marked by full acceptance and honesty. Lynn is a creative dreamer who is also a keen observer of human nature. Though comparatively innocent and not as worldly as her sister, Katie has a mischievous bent that she works to keep under control primarily because her family wants her to act properly.