The Thing About Luck
by Cynthia Kadohata
Atheneum, 2013. 270 pgs. Fiction
Summer's family has had a long spell of bad luck--kouun, in the Japanese. Summer herself was one of the few people in the United States unlucky enough to contract malaria. Her younger brother Jaz is an odd, perhaps autistic, boy whose only friend has moved away, and who can't seem to make any new ones. And just as the harvest season begins in the Midwest, Summer's parents are called away to Japan to assist dying relatives, and the money they usually make by working on a threshing crew to pay their mortgage will not be coming in when they most need it. Could things get worse? We'll see, as Summer's grandparents, Jiichan and Obaachan take the children on the road to pay the mortgage and fulfill their obligations. Jiichan will drive the combine, Obaachan and Summer will cook for the crew, and Jaz will do what Jaz does. Summer is a delightful character--funny, resilient, obedient and kind. Her relationship with Obaachan lies at the heart of the story--a true "tiger grandmother" who loves Summer dearly even while she is prodding and poking at her to be better. Summer tries her best to help Jaz and Obaachan, but what will they do when Jiichan gets sick with the rains coming and the fields uncut? Read this sterling story to find out. Winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.