Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata;
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing:
New York, 2006; $6.99
Once in a blue moon, you come upon a book which you believe is the pure embodiment of perfection. You read the novel in what seems like a single breath, and by the time you have read the last perfectly tailored word, you would be just as happy to read the entire thing again, if only to experience the magic another time. This book entraps you, entangles you, enthrals you, makes you smile whenever you touch its spine. If you had your way, you would make everyone in the world read it. A book such as this is Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata.
Kira Kira centers on the life of Katie Takeshima, who moves with her family from their home in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia. This move is a drastic change for Katie. In her new town, everyone stops and stares at her and her family. Some people marvel at her skin, her hair, and her eyes, but others just sneer at her and her family. Katie just can’t figure it out. The only one who is patient enough to explain their new circumstances to her is her elder sister, Lynn. In Lynn’s eyes, the entire world is an enigma, a shimmery wonderland only to be described by the Japanese word kira-kira, meaning glittery or shiny. Lynn teaches Katie the beauty in every life and the magic that every day brings. However, tragedy strikes, and Lynn, the only one who ever truly understands Katie, falls prey to sickness. Katie has to grow up much too fast and, in doing so, forgets Lynn’s lessons about the world.
I connected to this book on a spiritual level. In fact, my perception of the world was inspired very much by Lynn Takeshima. Once upon a time, I was an immigrant in a land of unfamiliar faces. I had no idea what to say, how to say it, when to say it. I was always the odd one out, always alone. My view of the world was a dark one; I thought that life was unfair and unkind and things would never be beautiful for me. All of that changed when I read Kira-Kira. I hung onto every word Lynn said, marveling at how similar our circumstances were yet how much our attitudes differed. Lynn and Katie inspired me to face the world with a smile; they taught me that beauty comes in the most dark places and in the most unexpected ways. The philosophy of kira-kira, of the shimmering wonderland that is our world, has kept me going in times that could’ve broken my spirit.
I didn’t really have a single favorite part in the novel; the entire book was peppered with moments that took my breath away. I loved it when Katie stood up to Lynn’s prejudiced friends and put them in their place. It empowered me to stand up for myself and others that I care about. I also loved the ending. I had thought that Katie would forget everything Lynn told her about the world, and she would once again be reduced to the heartbroken and cynical child she once was. However, Katie remembered the things Lynn had told her when her family went to California. She saw how lovely the world was, even through her own saddened eyes. She appreciated the beauty and kira-kira in every facet of the world. She inspired me to do the same. I hope she inspires you too.