When her cousin unexpectedly moves from Japan to Virginia, a Japanese-American girl finds their cultural differences embarrassing until kite fighting unites them.
Skye’s Japanese father has not seen his family since marrying her American mother and moving to Virginia. Skye knows some Japanese, but she’s an American kid, obsessed with soccer. Her Japanese cousin Hiroshi speaks some English, but he’s thoroughly Japanese and loves making and flying kites with his beloved grandfather. Everything changes when Hiroshi and his family relocate near Skye’s family for Grandfather’s cancer treatment. Skye’s parents enroll her in Japanese classes, jeopardizing her dream to play on the All-Star soccer team. Hiroshi, meanwhile, has lost his chance to compete in his town’s annual rokkaku kite battle. As Skye struggles with Japanese and Hiroshi struggles with English, both feel angry and frustrated. Ashamed because Hiroshi’s different, Skye fails to help him acclimate to fifth grade, where he feels like an alien. Hiroshi resents sharing Grandfather with Skye, until Grandfather’s health fails, and the cousins find common ground. Skye and Hiroshi’s American and Japanese perspectives emerge gradually through alternating chapters, while their grandfather functions as a pivotal character whose wisdom and legacy binds them. Details of Japanese language, culture and kite fighting enhance the diversity theme.
A quiet, beautifully moving portrayal of a multicultural family. (Fiction. 9-12)