A book geared for middle school readers, this is the story of Summer and her little brother Jaz, and just what happens during one fateful summer in harvesting wheat. Japanese Americans, Summer and her brother are left in the care of her grandparents, traditional Japanese, they work as wheat harvesters, moving as migrants through the season.
I loved the ideas set forth in this story, the action was limited, and the look into another culture and the inclusion of the grandparents was a wonderful storyline. Summer is trying, and often failing, to be like every other 12 year old girl, but nothing quite works out for her – she thinks she has no luck. With her parents away in Japan dealing with a family issue, Summer is trying to navigate dealing with a difficult grandmother who can’t find words of praise, and an odd brother who can’t find a friend her difficulties are mounting. We see her navigate her first ‘crush’ without help or confidantes, and watch her try to keep peace.
Slow to move, and inset with several moments of more technical information that felt unnecessary for the story progression, this story is not action-packed or drama laden. There are beautifully developed characters in Summer’s brother and grandparents, but there is just something not quite definable about Summer that leaves her a little incomplete. She did grow and learn as the story went on, but I never felt her as quite complete, and her backstory didn’t actually result in any filling out for me. The grandparents are wonderful, with the exception of the constant haranguing of Summer, while her brother is left to his own devices, BUT that also felt very culturally true to the characters and backgrounds. There was a nice inset of different words and customs from Japan, and some lovely little ‘truisms’ from the grandparents that was borne out by their hard-working, task oriented approach to life.
Narration in this story is provided by Joy Osmanski, and is very appropriate for the story: voices have simple distinctions to delineate them, and her care with enunciation and steady pacing kept me in the story.
A book that won’t be for every reader, it is a slowly paced read that only shines after the last page is complete. Adults and others who want to see something familiar through a new set of eyes will find this story to their liking.
Stars: 3 Narration 4 Story 3
Title: The Thing About Luck
Author: Cynthia Kadohata
Genre: Children's Literature, Literary Fiction /Family Saga
Narrator: Joy Osmanski
Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Reader, SimonandSchuster.com/Audio
Source: Simon and Schuster Audio
Audio Length: 5 Hours: 14 minutes
Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ iTunes ♦ Downpour ♦ IndieBound
There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck—which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family in this novel from Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata.
Summer knows that kouun means “good luck” in Japanese, and this year her family has none of it. Just when she thinks nothing else can possibly go wrong, an emergency whisks her parents away to Japan—right before harvest season. Summer and her little brother, Jaz, are left in the care of their grandparents, who come out of retirement in order to harvest wheat and help pay the bills.
The thing about Obaachan and Jiichan is that they are old-fashioned and demanding, and between helping Obaachan cook for the workers, covering for her when her back pain worsens, and worrying about her lonely little brother, Summer just barely has time to notice the attentions of their boss’s cute son. But notice she does, and what begins as a welcome distraction from the hard work soon turns into a mess of its own.
Having thoroughly disappointed her grandmother, Summer figures the bad luck must be finished—but then it gets worse. And when that happens, Summer has to figure out how to change it herself, even if it means further displeasing Obaachan. Because it might be the only way to save her family.
A copy of this title was provided via Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.