Kira-Kira Questions and Answers
by Cynthia Kadohata

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What qualities earned Kira-Kira the Newbery Medal?

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Kira-Kira won the Newberry Medal in the year 2005. The Newberry Medal is given by the ALSC, or the Association for Library Services for Children, to their choice of best original story. Kira-Kira reunites the qualities that the ALSC observes in order to select a story for the John Newberry Medal.

These quality indicators are:

  • Interpretation of the theme or concept
  • Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization
  • Development of a plot
  • Delineation of characters
  • Delineation of a setting
  • Appropriateness of style.

Kira-Kira is a fictional story about a Japanese family that struggles in America. The delineation of each of the characters is quite clear and realistic. The situations through which the characters struggle go hand in hand with the setting of the story:  A rural town during the 1950’s, during a period in American history when there was a collective feeling of “Anti-Japanese sentiment”. The style in which the story is narrated conveys the personal feelings of the characters and helps to explain the intensity of their emotional and social struggles. Furthermore, the story presents a social situation that was real and had not been written about before for this specific genre and audience.

It is very likely that the reason why this story won in 2005 is because the Newberry committee saw a combination of historical, social, and literary value in this story.