Review posted February 10, 2010.
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2004. 244 pages.
2005 Newbery Award Winner
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 would lie on our backs and look at the stars while she said over and over, 'Katie, say "kira-kira, kira-kira."' I loved that word! When I grew older, I used kira-kira to describe everything I liked: the beautiful blue sky, puppies, kittens, butterflies, colored Kleenex.
My mother said we were misusing the word; you could not call a Kleenex kira-kira. She was dismayed over how un-Japanese we were and vowed to send us to Japan one day. I didn't care where she sent me, so long as Lynn came along.
Kira-Kira is a beautiful story about a struggling immigrant family in 1950s America. But even more, it is about two sisters, one of whom gets a long, slow disease. They grow up together, with the mix of conflict and love that sisters have, while their parents struggle to make a home for them in America.
This is a very sad story, but it also glitters with hope. Good reading for those who enjoy a book that makes them cry.