About the Book
Katie Takeshima is about to enter kindergarten in the 1950s, when her parents close their Oriental foods grocery store in Iowa and move to Georgia to work in a chicken hatchery. Uncle Kutsuhisa helps them move into a small apartment complex where other Japanese families live, and they begin a long struggle toward saving money to purchase a house of their own. When tragedy strikes her family, Katie finds a way to show her parents that there is always hope and something glittering — kira-kira — in their future.
Guide provided by Simon & Schuster.
Kira-kira means “glittering” in Japanese. Ask students to write a one page description of something that is kira-kira to them. Examples may include the ocean, stars, the moon, the morning dew on the grass, a dancer under a spotlight, etc. Invite them to share their writing in class.
- Prejudice is an underlying theme in the novel. The first time that Katie experiences prejudice is at the motel in Tennessee when her family is moving to Georgia. Why does Mr. Takeshima quietly give in to the motel clerk and take the room in the back? How does Lynn help Katie understand the prejudices that she will experience at school?
- What are the elements of hope in the novel?
- Discuss Katie and Lynn’s relationship. Why does Katie feel that her parents like Lynn best? It is Lynn who tells Katie that they are moving to Georgia, and it is Lynn who tells her that their mother is pregnant. Why do Mr. and Mrs. Takeshima leave such important discussions up to Lynn? At what point do Lynn and Katie switch roles?
- Describe the friendship that develops between Lynn and Amber. What does Katie mean when she says “Amber broke ranks and became Lynn’s first best friend?” Why does Amber drop Lynn as a friend? Discuss why Katie is so hurt that Amber doesn’t come to Lynn’s funeral. Contrast Katie and Silly’s friendship with Lynn and Amber’s.
- Hitting, stealing, and lying are the three worst crimes to Mr. and Mrs. Takeshima. How does Katie commit each of these crimes in the course of the novel? Discuss the scene where Katie steals pink nail polish for Lynn. How does she justify this crime to herself? Discuss why Katie’s crime makes her mother feel that the family is falling apart.
- Lynn wakes up crying one night and says that in her dream she is swimming in the ocean. How does this dream foreshadow her death? Discuss the symbolism of the brown moth in Lynn’s bedroom on the night she dies.
- Discuss how the trip to California helps Katie come to terms with Lynn’s death. How does she help her parents deal with their grief?
Mrs. Takeshima feels that her girls must return to Japan to learn about their femininity. Research the role of women in Japan today. Write a brief article that might appear in a book called Women in Other Cultures.
Katie notices that her parents work all the time and never take time to relax and have fun. Research the ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony (known as chanoyu or chado). Plan a tea ceremony that Katie might have for her parents.
It is a Japanese custom to purchase souvenirs (or omiyage) from places they have traveled. Write a description of a souvenir that Katie might bring from California to put at Lynn’s grave.