about the book
Twelve-year-old Summer Miyamoto is so stressed. Her family has been having the worst luck lately, and now her parents have to fly off to Japan to care for an ailing relative. That means Summer is responsible for looking after her younger brother Jaz. Though she cares for him deeply, he is an odd, intense, and bad- tempered kid. (He suffers from Asperger’s.)
Summer and Jaz gather six months of homework from their teachers, pack their bags, and join their grandparents, who are coming out of retirement to work with the Park crew. These “wheaties” travel throughout the South, harvesting wheat along the way.
Her feisty grandmother, Obaachan, and very demanding grandfather, Jiichan, are both pushing seventy, speak only broken English, and are totally old school Japanese. Obaachan cooks for the crew of twelve while Jiichan drives a huge grain combines. Summer is to help in any way she can—as long as she can avoid the mosquitoes. She just got over a freaky case of malaria. Talk about bad luck—who catches malaria in America?
Constantly moving from one farm to the next is difficult. The grueling work demands long hours. The farmers depend on the harvesters to get the job done when it needs to be done, and Summer’s parents are relying on them to earn enough to pay the mortgage for an entire year.
Just when she begins to think that their luck is turning around, her grandfather becomes seriously ill. The crew is pushed to its limits by impending bad weather. If her grandfather cannot work, they will lose their jobs. That means they will lose their home in Kansas where they all live.
It is time for Summer to make her own luck. But is it even possible for a twelve-year old girl to drive a fifteen-ton $350,000 combine?
Cynthia Kadohata was born in 1956 in Chicago, Illinois. Of Japanese American descent, her father was an U.S. Army Intelligence officer and her mother was a stay-at-home mom. They traveled all over the country for her father’s career until her parents divorced, when Cynthia was only nine.
Growing up, she loved to read, but the moving and the divorce left her feeling like she didn’t fit in anywhere. Cynthia dropped out of high school, but eventually earned a GED and graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Southern California.
Having no idea what she wanted to do with her life, she took a bus trip up the West Coast, and then down through the South and Southwest. During this month-long journey, she realized she wanted to write—and her true career began.
Cynthia has written several award-winning novels for teenagers and young adults. Drawing on the stories she heard about her paternal grandfather, Cynthia was inspired to write Summer’s story in The Thing About Luck. Like Summer, Cynthia’s grandfather missed school to pick celery. He died in a tractor accident.
Cynthia lives in California with her family and two dogs. She loves to travel. She claims it gives her “writing energy”, engages her mind and spirit, and creates a new perspective from which she can contemplate the ordinary things in life.
Also by Cynthia Kadohata:
Half a World Away. Athenem Books for Young Readers. 2014.
A Million Shades of Gray. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2010.
Cracker! : The Best Dog in Vietnam. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2007.
Weedflower. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2006.
Kira-Kira. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2004.
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