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The Thing About Luck
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata, the Newbery-winning author of Kira-Kira, is a sweet family story about contemporary Japanese-American migrant workers. Because of her near-death experience with malaria, 12-year-old protagonist-narrator Summer thinks about death quite a bit, but she frames her thoughts in a positive light, focusing more on what she has than what she doesn't have.
What's the story?
In Newbery-winning author Cynthia Kadohata's THE THING ABOUT LUCK, Japanese-American Summer is used to the life of a migrant worker: She gets out of school in May and doesn't return until late fall, after she helps her family with the harvest. During the harvest season when she's 12 years old, however, her parents have to go to Japan, so Summer and her "intense" brother (who appears to be autistic, although it's not stated) must accompany her grandparents on the harvesting trek. Summer's previous almost-fatal bout of malaria has made her deathly afraid of mosquitoes. Constantly covering herself in the insect repellent DEET, she has an acute awareness of the fragility of life. As she and her family work and travel with the other harvesters, she helps with the cooking, struggles to get along with her grandmother, gets her first crush on a boy, and refines her philosophy of life. When her grandfather falls ill and can't keep up with his harvesting duties, it is up to Summer to save the day.
Is it any good?
While The Thing About Luck isn't long on action, Summer's conversational, likable voice shines. The humor and warmth with which she tells her story will make readers root for her as she struggles with the challenges of taking on adult responsibilities and doing the right thing.
Summer's explanations of the farming world convey how important the harvest is to the farmers, the contract harvesters, and families like hers hired by the harvesters, though for some readers her descriptions may border on the tedious.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about migrant farmworkers. Who picks the fruit and harvests the vegetables on the farms in your area? Have you ever thought about what their lives are like? Does this book give you an idea?
Summer's family doesn't own a computer, and although the boss' son gets to play Angry Birds when he's not helping with the machinery maintenance, Summer and her brother can't play video games. What would it be like for you to live without computer or video games?
Summer's grandfather gives her an article to read about peer pressure that was written in 1955. Do you think peer pressure today is more or less of an issue than it was back then? Why?
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