Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A little taste of kira-kira

Kira-kira means 'glittering' in Japanese -- it's also a recurring image in Cynthia Kadohata's novel of the same name. Glittering sea, glittering eyes, glittering stars. Kira-kira is the first word big sister Lynn teaches Katie, the novel's narrator; it is also a way of seeing the world that Lynn helps Katie to learn: "My sister had taught me to look at the world that way, as a place that glitters, as a place where the calls of the crickets and the crows and the wind are everyday ocurrences that also happen to be magic" (p243-44).

Lynn, though just four years older than Katie, acts as a surrogate mom to Katie, teaching her not just words, but also the facts of their life as two of only thirty-one Japanese people in their small southern town. Katie is perplexed by Lynn's assertion that some kids at her new school may ignore her: "'Why wouldn't they want to know me?' Who wouldn't want to know me? This was a new idea for me. Our father had always thought we were quite amazing, and Lynn, of course, had always thought I was perfect, so I thought of myself as rather amazing and maybe even perfect" (p50). And moments like this, full of quiet, understated wit, are why I liked this novel (though I'm pretty sure that as a child I would have been less than thrilled with it!).

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