Wednesday, November 28, 2007


As a book I listed as one of my Book Award Challenge selections, I felt inclined to sit and finish Cynthia Kadohata's Newbery winner, Kira-Kira. I was, however, so disappointed. There are times when I wonder what in the world the Newbery committee was thinking when it made selections, because I know several books listed as Honor medalists that would have made better winners than this book, and for so many reasons (Al Capone Does My Shirts anyone?!).

Katie Takeshima is growing up in the 1950's, a time where the Japanese are not exactly smiled at in public and where it is very difficult for her parents to gain good employment. When her uncle gets her parents jobs in a chicken hatchery in Georgia, they move from Iowa to completely new state, foreign to all of them. Katie grows even closer to her older sister Lynn, who just happens to be her best friend in the entire world. Unfortunately, Lynn slowly becomes very sick, causing her to pull away from Katie, and resulting in their parents working incredibly long hours in order to pay for Lynn's medical bills. As both girls continuously talk about their future dreams, the reader knows that none of the dreams can possibly come true for Lynn and subsequently will not come true for Katie, as she takes over the role of caregiver for the family, as Lynn's health declines.

Depressing and somber from the beginning, the novel just did not seem Newbery worthy to me. Unfortunately it did not even seem Honor Medal worthy. The reader did get to catch glimpses of life as a Japanese-American in the 1950's, as well as of a close-knit sibling relationship. I just think the book would have had a better chance at being likable if it hadn't started out with a dark feeling at the beginning, giving the reader upfront insight that tragedy was going to strike.


Becky said...

Sometimes I think the more titles you read for a given year, the more disappointed you are with whatever the Newbery winner is. If that makes any sense. I know that is true with me. Their selection is rarely mine, and nine times out of ten I love one of the honor books better than the winner. Still, I think it must be a difficult decision for a group of people to arrive at--it's easy for one person to pick the "best" but probably a lot harder to arrive at that decision collectively. Reading is always subjective and that's why awards and "best" lists sometimes can seem so disappointing.

I read Kira-Kira about four or five months before it became a Newbery winner. I liked it. I'll grant that it's depressing in places. And it is by no means perfect. But I had zero expectations going into it, and was able to just enjoy the reading experience.

Debi said...

I don't get nearly as many books read as you, so my frame of reference isn't as large, but Annie and I adored this book when we read it last year for school!

Amanda said...

I'm so glad that other people liked it! I think I didn't for two main reasons, the first being, as Becky said, that I actually knew it was a Newbery winner before I read it. Therefore, it just didn't measure up in my eyes. Secondly, I listened to it, rather than reading it, and I didn't care for the reader very much. Her accents were horrible. I definitely think that contributed to my dislike of the book.

Susan said...

I agree that this was a somber book, but I actually really liked it. It was unique and interesting. I don't know that it deserved the Newbery, but I liked it.

Verbivore said...

I'd love to give this one a try - I love the subject matter. But I am a bit wary if you say you didn't like it.

Becky said...


I love it when things start to make sense. :) I've done the same thing with books. That is audio books for me are different than book books. Sometimes a reader, a narrator, just doesn't mesh well with me. Some will grate on my nerves to the point where I just can't take it anymore. So being annoyed with the narrator could have been a factor here. But there are times when the narrator of an audio book gets it right and makes a good book even better. For example, I loved the audio books of Cupid, Life As We Knew It, and Book Thief. And I think that Cherry Jones' narration of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are perfect in every way. I loved, loved, loved those! So much so that after listening to them on the library, I decided I had to own them myself and ordered them from Amazon :)