When Kira-Kira first won the Newbery award in 2005, I could not bring myself to read it. My mother had recently died of cancer and I simply couldn’t entertain the idea of reading a book about a girl with a terminally ill sibling just for fun. I was surprised, then, when I finally read the book to realize that while the end of the novel definitely deals with Katie’s grief over losing her sister, it is not really a book about grief. It is a book about life, and the impact that Katie’s sister Lynne has on her life.
The characters all seemed exceptionally well drawn. I could see most of them having lives of their own. I loved that it is mentioned several times that the uncle was married briefly to a first wife, but that relationship is never explained or explored or has any bearing on the story. It is a part of his character, alluding to the fact that he had and has a life completely independent of Katie.
I thought that the relationship between the two girls was also well portrayed. It is a tiny bit unrealistic that they never seem to fight (except for the one epic milk fight), but I don’t think that is really a problem. This is Katie’s book, and it is her way of remembering her sister. If I were to tell a story of my childhood, it would focus on all of the fun things I did with my sister, not on the times we squabbled or fought.