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The Thing About Luck

Kadohata, Cynthia (Book - 2013 )
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Thing About Luck
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Just when twelve-year-old Summer thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong in a year of bad luck, an emergency takes her parents to Japan, leaving Summer to care for her little brother while helping her grandmother cook and do laundry for harvest workers.
Authors: Kadohata, Cynthia
Statement of Responsibility: Cynthia Kadohata ; illustrated by Julia Kuo
Title: The thing about luck
Publisher: New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2013
Edition: 1st ed
Characteristics: 269 p. : ill. ; 20 cm
Summary: Just when twelve-year-old Summer thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong in a year of bad luck, an emergency takes her parents to Japan, leaving Summer to care for her little brother while helping her grandmother cook and do laundry for harvest workers.
Audience: Ages 10-14
Awards & Distinctions: National Book Award finalist, 2013
Subject Headings: Farm life Kansas Fiction Grandparents Fiction Brothers and sisters Fiction Japanese Americans Fiction Luck Fiction Kansas Fiction Farm life Kansas Juvenile fiction Grandparents Juvenile fiction Brothers and sisters Juvenile fiction Japanese Americans Juvenile fiction Fortune Juvenile fiction Kansas Juvenile fiction
Topical Term: Farm life
Grandparents
Brothers and sisters
Japanese Americans
Luck
Farm life
Grandparents
Brothers and sisters
Japanese Americans
Fortune
Additional Contributors: Kuo, Julia
LCCN: 2012021287
ISBN: 9781416918820
1416918825
9781442474673
144247467X
Branch Call Number: J FIC K
Research Call Number: JFC 14-26
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Jun 23, 2014
  • litriocht rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Twelve-year-old Summer and her younger brother, Jaz, are under the care of her grandparents for the duration of this year's harvest season. Summer's parents, who would ordinarily be in charge, have been dispatched to Japan for the summer to take care of elderly relatives. The unexpected trip to Japan is not the only piece of bad luck the family has endured recently. Earlier in the year, Summer almost died due to a rare case of malaria that she acquired from a mosquito bite. As a result, Summer has developed an intense fear of mosquitoes. She habitually drenches herself in DEET and attempts to avoid mosquitoes.

Gathering ripe wheat is a time-sensitive task, so the drivers of harvesting vehicles must work extremely long days to reap the crop before it spoils. When Jiichan, the grandfather, becomes too ill to drive for an entire workday, the family becomes worried that they will be fired. Another solution simply must be found or their mortgage will go unpaid. Despite her phobia of nighttime insects that bite, Summer summons the courage to drive a combine in Jiichan's place.

Arguments and conversations are portrayed with humor. Summer feels close to Jiichan, but is constantly challenged by her interactions with Obaachan, her grandmother, and Jaz. Jiichan and Obaachan bicker like siblings, full of love for each other despite their trivial arguments. As Summer's mom phrases it, if you have been in a marriage for "that number of years, you no longer had to be polite all the time" (5). In fact, all Summer's family relationships portrayed in this book are like that: not especially polite, but supportive nonetheless. Just as Summer gets advice from her elders, her younger brother asks her complicated questions about life.

Quirky relatives are a prominent feature of this book. One of the most droll aspects of the way Kadohata portrays family life is found in the adults' tendency to tell outright lies to the children for didactic purposes. Ken Jennings wrote a book, Because I Said So! : The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to its Kids, in which he debunks well-meaning lies that older generations tell younger generations. In The Thing about Luck, this type of prevarication is amusingly strewn throughout the plot. For instance, when Summer and Jaz are invited to drink a soda, they refuse "because Obaachan said bubbly things make little explosions inside of children, which can kill you eventually" (170). Perhaps I find this aspect of the novel especially hilarious because the elders in my family are guilty of this behavior; one such lie was that my grandparents' miniature poodle bit off the first joint of my grandfather's finger. In any event, read this book if you enjoy cantankerous grandparent characters.

May 19, 2014
  • JCLChrisK rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I am from Kansas wheat county and would describe many of my favorite books as character-driven, understated, and/or subtle, yet I found this to have an excess of all of those features. It tells a quiet story focused on characters from Kansas working to harvest wheat, and reading it was pleasant enough, I just think the book's appeal is too niche and there wasn't enough story there for it to be more than quietly pleasant. The National Book Award committee obviously enjoyed and admired it, and the writing is admirable; I'm just having trouble imagining many 10-12 year-olds feeling the same way.

Jan 30, 2014
  • joywolf83 rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I think us of the American culture won't understand this book. It seems written for an Asian girl. Which is beautiful. Story of a Japanese girl who helps her family. Gives insight into the Midwest with farming and combining. Not my personal favorite but it definitely has a niche audience that will appreciate her quiet voice.

Jan 08, 2014
  • AlizontheAmazon rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

When I first started this book I didn't really like it and put it down many times before powering through, but I ended up getting to a point where I did like it. I have to say I'm not sure how many kids would read it and if they did how many could get through it and get a lot out of it.

I think this book does have a lot to offer. I've described it to people as a quiet book. There are a lot of things going on from cultural customs, to Jaz's undiagnosed psychological problems, to the big issues about love and relationships. I think this book is worth the read, but you have to really try.

I loved Summer's obsession with Mosquitos. I thought her connection with them after they almost kill her was a really fascinating and unique way to bring up death that you don't normally see in children's books.

Dec 13, 2013
  • m2 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Well, I am not so good with "slice of life" books; I keep thinking, "so?". Nor would I call this the best middle grade fiction of the year. But there is something so pungently real about this girl and her autistic brother and her immigrant grandparents; that the final rite de passage is the driving of a combine at night is so unexpected and yet so strong!

Recommended to all the girls who aren't the most beautiful or coolest in school, all those strong women looking for companions on the way to "courage".

M

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app08 Version tobio (tobio) Last updated 2014/09/22 11:30