Cynthia Kadohata, . . S&S/Atheneum, $15.95 (244pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85639-6
Set in the 1950s and '60s, Kadohata's moving first novel is narrated by a first-generation Japanese-American girl who moves with her family from Iowa to Georgia when their "Oriental foods grocery store" goes out of business. There, Katie and her family face hardships, including discrimination (she is ignored by the girls at school, for example), and the harsh conditions at the poultry plant where her mother works ("thugs" make sure workers do not gather so that they cannot organize). Katie's father often sleeps at the hatchery between shifts, and when their babysitter goes away, Katie and her brother must stay in the hot car outside the plant while their mother works. But it's her doting older sister Lynn's struggle with lymphoma that really tests her family. Katie's narrative begins almost as stream-of-
consciousness, reflecting a younger child's way of seeing the world. But as she matures through the challenges her family faces, so does the prose. Kadohata movingly captures the family's sustaining love—Lynn and Katie secretly save their treat money for years so they can help their parents buy a house, and when ailing Lynn gets to pick the house, she chooses a sky blue one, because Katie as a "little girl,... had told her [she] wanted our first to be sky blue." The family's devotion to one another, and Lynn's ability to teach Katie to appreciate the "kira-kira," or glittering, in everyday life makes this novel shine. Ages 11-up.
Reviewed on: 02/09/2004