The Thing About Luck

Winner, National Book Awards 2013 for Young People's Literature

The Thing About Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata book cover
ISBN 9781416918820
Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster
Cynthia Kadohata

Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Medal-winning book Kira-Kira, the National Book Award–winning novel The Thing About Luck, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and PEN USA Award-winning Weedflower, and the critically acclaimed Half a World Away, Cracker!, Outside Beauty, A Million Shades of Gray, Checked, and several adult novels. More about this author >

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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.

Judges Citation

With masterful characterizations and quiet strength, Cynthia Kadohata goes straight to the heart of twelve-year-old Summer, her troubled brother, and her Japanese-American grandparents during one grueling season of a contemporary Midwest wheat harvest. Here, Kadohata has carefully crafted a vivid and realistic portrayal of one family’s migrant experience. But even more, she’s created a compassionate, gentle, and humorous book, exploring generational and cultural differences, the fragility of life, and the weighty yet cherished ties of family.


Cynthia Kadohata Accepts the 2013 National Book Award in Young People’s Literature