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 Cynthia Kadohata's stunning debut in middle-grade fiction.
- Newbery Medal
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Atheneum Books for Young Readers
February 09, 2004
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Excerpt from Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
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.
I was born in Iowa in 1951. I know a lot about when I was a little girl, because my sister used to keep a diary. Today I keep her diary in a drawer next to my bed.
I like to see how her memories were the same as mine, but also different. For instance, one of my earliest memories is the day Lynn saved my life. I was almost five, and she was almost nine. We were playing on the empty road near our house. Fields of tall corn stretched into the distance wherever you looked. A dirty gray dog ran out of the field near us, and then he ran back in. Lynn loved animals. Her long black hair disappeared into the corn as she chased the dog. The summer sky was clear and blue. I felt a brief fear as Lynn disappeared into the cornstalks. When she wasn't in school, she stayed with me constantly. Both our parents worked. Officially, I stayed all day with a lady from down the road, but unofficially, Lynn was the one who took care of me.
After Lynn ran into the field, I couldn't see anything but corn.
"Lynnie!" I shouted. We weren't that far from our house, but I felt scared. I burst into tears.
Somehow or other, Lynn got behind me and said, "Boo!" and I cried some more. She just laughed and hugged me and said, "You're the best little sister in the world!" I liked it when she said that, so I stopped crying.
The dog ran off. We lay on our backs in the middle of the road and stared at the blue sky. Some days nobody at all drove down our little road. We could have lain on our backs all day and never got hit.
Lynn said, "The blue of the sky is one of the most special colors in the world, because the color is deep but see-through both at the same time. What did I just say?"
"The sky is special."
"The ocean is like that too, and people's eyes."
She turned her head toward me and waited. I said, "The ocean and people's eyes are special too."
That's how I learned about eyes, sky, and ocean: the three special, deep, colored, see-through things. I turned to Lynnie. Her eyes were deep and black, like mine.
The dog burst from the field suddenly, growling and snarling. Its teeth were long and yellow. We screamed and jumped up. The dog grabbed at my pants. As I pulled away, the dog ripped my pants and his cold teeth touched my skin. "Aaahhhhh!" I screamed.
Lynn pulled at the dog's tail and shouted at me, "Run, Katie, run!" I ran, hearing the dog growling and Lynnie grunting. When I got to the house, I turned around and saw the dog tearing at Lynn's pants as she huddled over into a ball. I ran inside and looked for a weapon. I couldn't think straight. I got a milk bottle out of the fridge and ran toward Lynn and threw the bottle at the dog. The bottle missed the dog and broke on the street. The dog rushed to lap up the milk.
Lynn and I ran toward the house, but she stopped on the porch. I pulled at her. "Come on!"
She looked worried. "He's going to cut his tongue on the glass."
But she got the water hose and chased the dog away with the water, so it wouldn't hurt its tongue. That's the way Lynn was. Even if you tried to kill her and bite off her leg, she still forgave you.
This is what Lynn said in her diary from that day:
The corn was so pretty. When it was all around me, I felt like I wanted to stay there forever. Then I heard Katie crying, and I ran out as fast as I could. I was so scared. I thought something had happened to her!
Later, when the dog attacked me, Katie saved my life.
I didn't really see things that way. If she hadn't saved my life first, I wouldn't have been able to save her life. So, really, she's the one who saved a life.
Lynn was the bravest girl in the world. She was also a genius. I knew this because one day I asked her, "Are you a genius?" And she said, "Yes." I believed her because the day my father taught her how to play chess, she won her first game. She said she would teach me how to play if I wanted. She always said she would teach me everything in the world I needed to know. She said we would be rich someday and buy our parents seven houses. But first they would buy a house for all of us. That wonderful day was not far off. I found this out one afternoon when Lynn pulled me into the kitchen, her eyes shining. "I have to show you something," she said.