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Last updated Monday, December 18, 2006

Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Date of Publication: 2004
ISBN: 0689856393
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2007

Synopsis: (From School Library Journal) Katie's first word is "kira-kira," the Japanese word for "glittering," and she uses it to describe everything she likes. It was taught to her by her older sister, Lynn, whom Katie worships. Both girls have trouble adjusting when their parents move the family from Iowa to a small town in rural Georgia, where they are among only 31 Japanese-Americans. They seldom see their parents, who have grueling jobs in chicken-processing plants. Then Lynn becomes deathly ill, and Katie is often left to care for her, a difficult and emotionally devastating job. When her sister dies of lymphoma, Katie searches for ways to live up to her legacy and to fulfill the dreams she never had a chance to attain. Told from Katie's point of view and set in the 1950s, this beautifully written story tells of a girl struggling to find her own way in a family torn by illness and horrendous work conditions. Katie's parents can barely afford to pay their daughter's medical bills, yet they refuse to join the growing movement to unionize until after Lynn's death.

Note to readers:
•  This is a chapter book, but the text is not dense and it should read quickly. Begin at chapter one and read as far as you can until 11:00.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  The title is pronounced “kee’ra kee’ra” and means glittering or shining in Japanese. How do you say “glittering/shining” in your native language (if it’s not English)?
•  Have you ever had to move to a new place where you didn’t know anyone? What was it like? What did you miss, and what did you like about your new home?
•  Do you have an older brother or sister? How do you feel toward them? What have they taught you?
•  This is a story about Japanese Americans who move from Iowa to Georgia. Find Japan, Iowa, and Georgia on maps in the classroom.

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Have you ever been treated differently because of how you look, the color of your skin, the sound of your voice, etc.? How did that make you feel? Were you patient like Katie’s father or were you confrontational like Katie? (Chapter 3)

Craft ideas:
•  Make origami cranes and other animals. Origami (pronounced OR-I-GA-ME) is the Japanese art of paper folding. “Ori” is the Japanese word for folding and “kami” is the Japanese word for paper. It was a Japanese custom that if a person folded 1000 cranes, he or she would be granted one wish. (Instructions will be provided)
•  Make kirigami paper cuttings. Kirigami is the Japanese art of paper folding and cutting.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!