1 July 2012, Charlesbridge
Nominated for the Cybils by Katie Fitzgerald
When Skye and Hiroshi's grandfather becomes ill, it throws both their lives' into chaos-- Hiroshi's family moves from their village in Japan to Virginia, in order to be near Skye's family and get treatment for the grandfather. Skye (whose mother is not Japanese) suddenly finds her father embracing his culture and forcing her to do the same, even though it means that she has to attend Japanese classes instead of playing All-Star soccer. They are in school together, and Skye (whose family now calls her Sorano) is embarrassed by her cousin. Hiroshi is also embarrassed, because he feels his ESL class is too easy, and yet is still struggling with English. The cousins also have a hard time sharing their grandfather, since he wants to spend time with both of them working on kites and preparing to compete in a kit battle. When the treatments aren't working, both children know that their time with their grandfather is short, and that they need to work together instead of spending their time fighting.
Strengths: I cried. The story with the grandfather was moving but not maudlin. Very well done. This was a great book for introducing all sort of differences between US and Japanese culture while not painting either one as better.
Weaknesses: Multicultural topics, as well as books involving grandparents, are a really hard sell, and the cover doesn't help this one. This could be paired with Park's The Kite Fighters or McCaughrean's The Kite Riders for some nice March reading with a class, though.
Got this copy through Interlibrary Loan from the Kent Free Library, where I got my first library card in 1969!
Let me know if the addition of nonfiction books to coordinate with the fiction book mentioned annoys people.