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The Thing about Luck
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There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck--which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family in this winner of the National Book Award by 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. Cynthia Kadohata's ode to the breadbasket of America has received six starred reviews and won the National Book Award.""
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"Author Cynthia Kadohata does an excellent job of portraying the intensity of the lives of the farmers whose entire fortunes rest on their wheat crops being harvested at exactly the right point -- when the grain is mature and tests at the ideal moisture content. Any delay in harvesting combined with an untimely rain can conceivably wipe out the crop and the farmers' future, and readers get an eyeful of the ridiculously long hours the custom combine operators are forced to work when rain is forecast in the too-near future. It clearly comes down to everybody working no matter what, or being out of a job. What is most intense about the story is the position in which twelve year-old Summer finds herself. Having, myself, grown up an eldest child who worked alongside my parents, I well-remember what it is like to feel the need to take on adult worries and responsibilities at a young age. But I never faced the littlest fraction of what this girl on the cusp of adolescence is handed. Summer's brother Jaz is a child with significant social challenges, being that he is developmentally somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Summer must always be a good big sister to him and be his support system. Her grandmother has a severe chronic back condition on top of sometimes being prickly and often being difficult to understand. When the situation arises, Summer must be able to immediately prepare the meals for the crew by herself and smooth over the tensions that arise. Then, when her grandfather becomes seriously ill just at the time when the crew is being squeezed the hardest by impending bad weather, Summer is forced to take on the worry of whether her grandparents will lose their jobs, and whether this will result in her parents defaulting on their mortgage and losing the house in Kansas that they all share. It all makes an earlier event in the story -- where Summer is faced with telling the truth in a very uncomf

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