Reviews for Thing About Luck

Booklist Reviews 2013 April #1
*Starred Review* It seems that if Summer's Japanese American family didn't have bad luck, they'd have no luck at all. Certainly good luck (kouun) is elusive. Consider that Summer has had malaria; her little brother, Jaz, is friendless; her parents have to fly to Japan to take care of elderly relatives; and her grandmother (Obaa-chan) and grandfather (Jii-chan) must pay the mortgage by coming out of retirement to work for a custom harvesting company. When the siblings accompany their grandparents on the harvest, Summer helps her grandmother, a cook, while Jaz is Jaz: intense, focused, and bad-tempered. At first, things go reasonably well, but then Jii-chan becomes sick, and it appears that it might be up to Summer to save the day. Will she succeed? Kadohata has written a gentle family story that is unusual in its focus on the mechanics of wheat harvesting. Readers may skim the more arcane aspects of the labor-intensive work, focusing instead on the emotionally rich and often humorous dynamics of Summer's relationship with her old-fashioned but endearing grandparents and her troubled younger brother. Another engaging novel from the Newbery Medal-winning Kadohata. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With the blogosphere already starting to buzz, and author appearances and web promotions planned, Kadohata's already sizable audience will likely increase with this title. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
In this funny, poignant novel, twelve-year-old Summer's parents can't go "on harvest" this year, so Summer s grandfather, Jiichan, comes out of retirement to drive a combine, while her grandmother, Obaachan, cooks for the work crew (with Summer as her assistant). When a crisis hits, Summer gathers her courage and saves the situation; her exultance makes for an uplifting conclusion.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #4
Twelve-year-old narrator Summer lives with her brother, parents, and grandparents in Kansas in this funny, poignant novel that will give urban and suburban readers a glimpse of contemporary rural life. Summer explains how wheat farmers hire custom harvesters (independent contractors who own farming equipment), who in turn hire people like her parents to drive the combines all over the Midwest. But ever since Summer almost died from malaria, infected by a "rogue mosquito," her family has been down on its luck. Now her parents have been summoned to Japan to care for dying elderly relatives and won't be able to go "on harvest" this year. Money is tight, so Summer's grandfather, Jiichan, comes out of retirement to drive a combine, while her grandmother, Obaachan, cooks for the work crew (with Summer as her assistant). It's a hard life, but Summer's chatty narrative and her grandparents' terse humor manage to keep things light. Obaachan complains that her frizzy-haired granddaughter looks like "Yoko Ono, 1969"; Jiichan is forever clutching at his heart in reaction to such things as Teflon pans ("invented by someone who care more about easy than about good"). Summer's first crush, her mosquito obsession, her notebook sketches -- even her descriptive details about harvesting -- add layers of interest. When a crisis hits, Summer gathers her courage and saves the situation; her exultance makes for an uplifting conclusion. She believes that when something -- like a mosquito -- almost kills you, you're bonded to it for life; readers will see this is also true for Summer's bond with Obaachan (whose harsh words mask her love) and with the backbreaking but satisfying work of harvesting. jennifer m. brabander

Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #2
Twelve-year-old Summer and her Japanese-American family work every harvest season to earn money to pay their mortgage. But this year, they face unprecedented physical and emotional challenges. It has been a particularly hard-luck year. Among other strange occurrences, Summer was bitten by a stray, diseased mosquito and nearly died of malaria, and her grandmother suffers from sudden intense spinal pain. Now her parents must go to Japan to care for elderly relatives. So Summer, her brother and their grandparents must take on the whole burden of working the harvest and coping with one emergency after another. She writes a journal chronicling the frightening and overwhelming events, including endless facts about the mosquitoes she fears, the harvest process and the farm machinery that must be conquered. As the season progresses, her relationships with her grandparents and her brother change and deepen, reflecting her growing maturity. Her grandparents' Japanese culture and perspective are treated lovingly and with gentle humor, as are her brother's eccentricities. Kadohata makes all the right choices in structure and narrative. Summer's voyage of self-discovery engages readers via her narration, her journal entries and diagrams, and even through her assigned book report of A Separate Peace. Readers who peel back the layers of obsessions and fears will find a character who is determined, compassionate and altogether delightful. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 April #4

Sharp characterizations and descriptive details about modern farming invigorate Newbery Medalist Kadohata's (Kira-Kira) funny and warm story about the Japanese-American daughter of migrant workers. Twelve-year-old Summer's family has suffered a year of bad luck that included Summer's near-fatal contraction of malaria and her parents' departure to Japan to be with ailing relatives. In order to make ends meet, Summer's grandparents come out of retirement to work for custom harvesters, which requires them to travel throughout the Midwest. Taking time off from school to accompany them, Summer reflects on her paranoia about mosquitoes, her lonely younger brother's inability to make friends, and her annoyance at her sharp-tongued grandmother. During a time of crisis, however, Summer must set her concerns aside to rise to a challenge. Lively dialogue and a succinct narrative laced with humor effectively convey Summer's emotions, observations, and courage. Readers will relate to her uncertainties and admire both her compassion and her work ethic. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 10-14. Author's agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents. Illustrator's agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (June)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 June

Gr 5-8--Fans of Kadohata's Kira-Kira (S & S, 2004) will welcome this similarly gentle, character-driven exploration of familial bonds, this time set in the contemporary Midwest. With their parents called away to care for relatives in Japan, 12-year-old Summer and her younger brother, Jaz, accompany their grandparents, performing the grueling work that comes with the harvest season. In her likable voice, Summer observes the varying excitement, tedium, and challenges of harvesting wheat, sprinkling her narration with casual turns of phrase such as "OMG" and "epic fail" that will endear her to readers. Strong family ties suffuse this novel with a tremendous amount of heart. Though Summer's brother has been diagnosed with a number of disorders, she prefers to think of him as simply "intense," and, like most siblings, is alternately protective of and annoyed by his idiosyncrasies. Her grandparents, comically strict Obaachan and kindly Jiichan, bring warmth and humor with their cultural and generational differences. Kadohata expertly captures the uncertainties of the tween years as Summer navigates the balance of childlike concerns with the onset of increasingly grown-up responsibilities. She ponders the fragility of life after a brush with death from malaria, experiences newfound yearnings upon becoming preoccupied with a boy, and bravely steps up to save the day when her grandfather falls ill. The book's leisurely pace and extensive information about grain harvesting require some amount of patience from readers, but their investment will be rewarded by Summer's satisfying journey to self-actualization.--Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

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VOYA Reviews 2013 June
Summer's family usually spends many months a year traveling around the country harvesting wheat for local farmers. But one year, Summer and Jaz, her brother, are left in the care of their grandparents when their parents have to travel to Japan to take care of a family situation. Bills still have to be paid, so Summer, Jaz, their dog, Thunder, Obaachan (grandmother) and Jichan (grandfather), pack up and travel to join the harvest. Summer and Obaachan are in charge of meals; Jichan drives a combine from sun-up until long past sunset while Jaz plays with his Legos and tries to stay out of trouble. In addition to her cooking duties, Summer is supposed to keep up with the school work she is missing. Summer is not a fan of this plan as she feels she will end up taking care of her brother who never fits in anywhere and her elderly grandparents to whom she has trouble relating. It seems like there may be a change in Summer's luck when she begins a flirtation with the son of the wheat harvesting contractor for whom her family is working. Summer has been raised to be an obedient, mostly traditional, Japanese girl and she knows her life is different than the lives of her American friends. She wants to be normal, but she cannot quite figure out how to do that and how to stay true to her family and their values. The Thing About Luck is a thoughtful look at young girl trying to come to terms with her life, her family, and how she fits in with the world--especially considering cultural differences. It will appeal to middle grade readers, especially those who like tales about strong young women trying to succeed in life.--Charla Hollingsworth 4Q 3P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.