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This article is about the young adult novel. For the provincial capital of the Solomon Islands, see Kirakira. For the visual novel, see Kirakira (visual novel).
Author Cynthia Kadohata
Original title Kira-Kira
Country United States
Language English
Genre Book
Publisher Atheneum Books
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 244 pp
ISBN 0-689-85639-3
OCLC 51861752
LC Class PZ7.K1166 Ki 2004

Kira-Kira is a young adult novel by Cynthia Kadohata. It won the Newbery Medal for children's literature in 2005. The book's plot is about a Japanese-American family living in Georgia. The main character and narrator of the story is a girl named Katie Takeshima, the middle child of the Japanese-American family. "Kira-Kira" (キラ キラ in katakana) means glittering or shining.

Plot summary[edit]

In the late 1950s, Katie and her family live in Iowa, where her parents own a Japanese supermarket. When the family's store goes out of business, the family moves to an apartment in Georgia where Katie's parents work at a hatchery with other Japanese families. Katie's best friend is her older sister Lynn, whom Katie looks up to as the most intelligent person she knows, citing Lynn's ability to beat their Uncle Katsuhisa, a self-proclaimed chess grand master, at his own game as an example. Katie holds close to her heart the Japanese phrase "kira-kira", which Lynn taught her and they use to describe things that sparkle in their lives.

When Katie enters school, she has difficulty being the only Japanese-American in her class. Her grades are solid average C's, in comparison to Lynn's ongoing A's. When Katie is six years old, her brother Samson, known throughout the novel as Sammy, is born. Lynn becomes friends with a popular yet snotty girl, Amber, whom Katie dislikes immensely. After that, Lynn starts becoming interested in boys, often dropping Katie to go hang out with people her age. Lynn starts feeling sporadiaclly fatigued and ill, and is diagnosed with anemia. Katie eventually becomes friends with a girl named Silly Kilgore, whom she meets while waiting in the car at her mother's job. Silly's mother backs having a union at the plant to fight for higher wages and better working conditions, though Katie's mother opposes it.

Meanwhile, Lynn is eventually diagnosed with lymphoma and becomes even sicker when Amber dumps her as a friend. The family moves into a house of Lynn's choice to help her recover, which appears to work for a short time. However, Lynn relapses from distress when her younger brother Sammy is caught in a metal animal trap on the vast property owned by Mr. Lyndon, the owner of the hatchery. Lynn's condition continues to deteriorate and she becomes blank and irritable. Katie's parents eventually tell her about Lynn's illness and Katie realizes that it could be fatal.

Katie falls asleep after talking to her sister about taking care of the family and getting better grades. She is woken by her father after she watches the Japanese New Year sunrise to be told that Lynn has died. Katie realizes why Lynn had taught her the word Kira-Kira; she wanted to remind her to always look at the world as a shining place and to never lose hope, though there might be harsh hurdles in life. Katie tries to support her grief-stricken parents by performing household chores and cooking, tasks she had formerly despised. She keeps Lynn's belongings on her desk as an altar. The family feels that Lynn's spirit will stay around as long as they have her belongings around, though Katie thinks that Lynn's spirit will only stay around for forty-nine days after she dies, due to an old story her uncle told her.

The same day Lynn dies, Katie's usually calm and restrained father breaks into an angry rage after seeing Sammy struggle with the limp that he had from getting caught in the trap. He takes Katie and wrecks Mr. Lyndon's car, an act which shocks her. Later on, he goes to Mr. Lyndon and owns up to what he did, resulting in him getting fired. Katie is appalled that her father is now unemployed, but he tells her that there is another hatchery opening up in Missouri, where he will probably work next, even though it will be a longer drive.

Katie is left with Lynn's diary, and upon reading it, she realizes that Lynn knew she was going to die and had written a will dated four days before her death. Soon after, Katie's mother attends a pro-union meeting at the Kilgore house. One of the things that the union wanted to achieve was having a three-day grief leave for families handling adversities. Though Katie's mother knows it's a little late for their family, if she voted for the union, it wouldn't be too late for the next family suffering grief. Katie tries to fulfill one of Lynn's dreams, to get better grades.

To cheer everyone up, Katie's family decides to take a vacation. Katie recommends California because that is where Lynn would have wanted to go; California is where the sea she loved is, and it is where Lynn wanted to live when she got older. The family arrives, and while Katie walks on the beach, she can hear Lynn's voice in the waves: "Kira-kira, kira-kira."


Kirkus Reviews wrote "The vivid writing and the portrayal of a most loving and honorable father lift this above the norm. “Kira-Kira” is Japanese for glittering, and Kadohata’s Katie sparkles."[1] while Publishers Weekly called it "moving"[2] and Common Sense Media described it a "touching tale."[3]


  1. ^ "Kira-Kira". Kirkus Media LLC. 15 December 2003. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Kira-Kira". PWxyz LLC. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "Kira-Kira". Common Sense Media Inc. Retrieved 30 September 2015. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Tale of Despereaux
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Criss Cross