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Children's Literature @ NYPL

Booktalking "The Thing About Luck" by Cynthia Kadohata

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Twelve-year-old Summer learns much about the farming process and the wheat crop from working on combine farms with her family. Thunder is a 95-pound Doberman pincher who is her constant companion. He follows her everywhere, and he is always pleasant and willing to pour love into her heart.

Her grandmother, Obaachan is fiery, and she cooks as much as she can, despite her illness. Her grandfather Jiichan busts his butt working long, tiring days on whichever combine farm his supervisor assigns him to. Jiichan and Obaachan are idiosyncratic and charming together; they argue about things such as who will die first.

Jaz is allowed to run amuck simply because people feel bad that he is unhappy and does not have friends. Jaz does have a host of psychological problems. Jaz's family is perpetually trying to win him playmates, perhaps to share in building monuments from the $1,000 worth of LEGOs that he managed to acquire.

It seems as though everyone picks on Summer every chance they get. Every question or comment that she directs to her grandmother is bounced back as a criticism. Obaachan turns mocking Summer into an Olympic sport, in front of everyone, all day long. Higher class combine farmers' kids also look down on the girl.

Summer wonders how she will survive the season without killing someone.

Summer smells of DEET constantly due to her fear of recontacting a disease from mosquitoes, like the time that she got malaria from one of them. She entertains herself by drawing sketches of mosquitoes and learning the various male and female characteristics of the insect. She draws pleasure and relaxation from her art.

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

The cover illustration is lovely, and I like the mirror set of Summer and her brother Jaz and the grains of wheat. The author actually rode in a 15-ton combine while doing research for the book. She has a dog of her own and is very much a dog lover.

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