Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Cynthia Kadohata  

Pen Name: None

Genre: Adult and Children's Fiction

Audience: Adult; Children;

Born: 1956 in Chicago, Illinois

-- Website --
-- Cynthia Kadohata on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Kadohata was born in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Cynthia Kadohata is the author of the Newbery Medal winning book ''Kira-Kira'', the National Book Award winner ''The Thing About Luck'', the Jane Addams Peace Award and Pen USA Award winner ''Weedflower'', ''Cracker!,'' ''Outside Beauty'', ''A Million Shades of Gray'', ''Half a World Away,'' and several critically acclaimed adult novels, including ''The Floating World''. While having lived in Chicago, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan, Los Angeles, Boston, Pittsburgh, and New York City in her lifetime, she currently resides in West Covina, California.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Floating World
ISBN: 0345381629

Ballantine Books. 1993

A NEW YORK TIMES Notable Book of the Year. "Magical...THE FLOATING WORLD is about families, coming of age, guilt, memory...It is also about being Japanese-American in the United States in the 1950's." --NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW.

In the Heart of the Valley of Love (California Fiction)
ISBN: 0520207289

University of California Press. 1997

Cynthia Kadohata explores human relationships in a Los Angeles of the future, where rich and poor are deeply polarized and where water, food, and gas, not to mention education, cannot be taken for granted. There is an intimate, understated, even gentle quality to Kadohata's writing―this is not an apocalyptic dystopia―that makes it difficult to shrug off the version of the future embodied in her book.

ISBN: 0689856407

Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2006

kira-kira (kee ra kee ra): glittering shining
Glittering. That's how Katie Takeshima's sister, Lynn, makes everything seem. The sky is kira-kira because its color is deep but see-through at the same time. The sea is kira-kira for the same reason. And so are people's eyes. When Katie and her family move from a Japanese community in Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, it's Lynn who explains to her why people stop on the street to stare. And it's Lynn who, with her special way of viewing the world, teaches Katie to look beyond tomorrow. But when Lynn becomes desperately ill, and the whole family begins to fall apart, it is up to Katie to find a way to remind them all that there is always something glittering -- kira-kira -- in the future.

ISBN: 1416975667

Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2009

With remarkable insight and clarity, the Newbery Medal-winning author of Kira-Kira explores an important and painful topic through the eyes of a young Japanese-American girl living in California just as the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.

Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam
ISBN: 141690638X

Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2008

Winner of the Buckeye Children's Book Award (Ohio), the California Young Reader Medal, Emphasis on Reading Book Award (Alabama), North Carolina Children's Book Award, Parents' Choice Award, South Carolina Book Award, and the William Allen White Children's Book Award (Kansas)
CRACKER IS ONE OF THE UNITED STATES ARMY'S MOST VALUABLE WEAPONS: a German shepherd trained to sniff out bombs, traps, and the enemy. The fate of entire platoons rests on her keen sense of smell. She's a Big Deal, and she likes it that way. Sometimes Cracker remembers when she was younger, and her previous owner would feed her hot dogs and let her sleep in his bed. That was nice, too.

Rick Hanski is headed to Vietnam. There, he's going to whip the world and prove to his family and his sergeant -- and everyone else who didn't think he was cut out for war -- wrong. But sometimes Rick can't help but wonder that maybe everyone else is right. Maybe he should have just stayed at home and worked in his dad's hardware store.

When Cracker is paired with Rick, she isn't so sure about this new owner. He's going to have to prove himself to her before she's going to prove herself to him. They need to be friends before they can be a team, and they have to be a team if they want to get home alive.

Told in part through the uncanny point of view of a German shepherd, Cracker! is an action-packed glimpse into the Vietnam War as seen through the eyes of a dog and her handler. It's an utterly unique powerhouse of a book by the Newbery Medal-winning author of Kira-Kira.

Outside Beauty
ISBN: 0689865759

Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2008

"My mother had four daughters by four different men."

There's only one way Shelby and her sisters can describe their mother: She's a sexpot. Helen Kimura collects men (and loans, spending money, and gifts of all kinds) from all over the country. Sure, she's not your typical role model, but she's also not just a pretty face and nail polish. She is confident and brave she lives life on her own terms, and her four daughters simply adore her. These girls have been raised outside the traditional boundaries. They know how to take the back exit. They know how to dodge crazed lovers in highway car chases. They do not, however, know how to function without one another.

Then suddenly they must. A late-night phone call unexpectedly shreds the family apart, catapulting the girls across the country to live with their respective fathers. But these strong-willed sisters are, like their mother, determined to live life on their own terms, and what they do to pull their family back together is nothing short of beautiful.

At turns wickedly funny and insistently thought-provoking, Outside Beauty showcases Cynthia Kadohata's unerring ability to explore the bonds that bind.

A Million Shades of Gray
ISBN: 1442429194

Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2011

Y'Tin is brave.

No one in his village denies that—his mother may wish that he’d spend more time on school work than on elephant training, but still she knows that it takes a great deal of courage and calm to deal with elephants the way that Y'Tin does. He is almost the best trainer in the village—and, at twelve-years old, he’s certainly the youngest. Maybe he’ll even open up his own school some day to teach other Montagnards how to train wild elephants? That was the plan anyway—back before American troops pulled out of the Vietnam War, back before his village became occupied by Viet Cong forces seeking revenge, back before Y'Tin watched his life change in a million terrible ways.

Now, his bravery is truly put to the test: he can stay in his village, held captive by the Viet Cong or he can risk his life (and save his elephant’s) by fleeing into the jungle. The Montagnards know their surroundings well. After all, this is why Y'Tin’s village had become loyal US allies during the war, having been tapped by Special Forces for their tracking skills and familiarity with the jungle. But that also means that Y'Tin knows how unsafe it can be—and how much danger he is in if he chooses to head out with no destination in mind.

At once heartbreaking and full of hope, Newbery Medal-winning author Cynthia Kadohata’s exploration into the depth of the jungle and the not-so-distant past brings us close to a world few people know about—and none will ever forget. Y'Tin’s story is one of lasting friendships, desperate choices and all that we lose when we are forced to change.

The Thing About Luck
ISBN: 1442474653

Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2014

There is bad luck, good luck, and making your own luck--which is exactly what Summer must do to save her family in this winner of the National Book Award by Newbery Medalist Cynthia Kadohata.

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 are left in the care of their grandparents -- Obaachan and Jiichan -- 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.

Cynthia Kadohata's ode to the breadbasket of America has received six starred reviews and was named on numerous "best of" lists for 2013.

The Glass Mountains
ISBN: 1497644593

Open Road Media Young Readers. 2014

Mariska could not be happier. Living an almost fairy‑tale life, she is popular, adored by her parents, and is engaged to be married to the most attractive man in her village. But her world is torn when war approaches the peaceful village of Bakshami. Mariska risks everything she has in order to search for her parents who left to negotiate and find peace. With a young warrior as her companion, she travels beyond the safety of her village. Together they search for Mariska’s parents and peace for their village in a time of terrible uncertainty.

Half a World Away
ISBN: 1442412763

Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2015

"What an honest, beautiful, and moving book about the transformative power of love." -- R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder.

Eleven-year-old Jaden is adopted, and he knows he's an "epic fail." That's why his family is traveling to Kazakhstan to adopt a new baby--to replace him, he's sure. And he gets it. He is incapable of stopping his stealing, hoarding, lighting fires, aggressive running, and obsession with electricity. He knows his parents love him, but he feels...nothing.

When they get to Kazakhstan, it turns out the infant they've traveled for has already been adopted, and literally within minutes are faced with having to choose from six other babies. While his parents agonize, Jaden is more interested in the toddlers. One, a little guy named Dimash, spies Jaden and barrels over to him every time he sees him. Jaden finds himself increasingly intrigued by and worried about Dimash. Already three years old and barely able to speak, Dimash will soon age out of the orphanage, and then his life will be as hopeless as Jaden feels now. For the first time in his life, Jaden actually feels something that isn't pure blinding fury, and there's no way to control it, or its power.

From camels rooting through garbage like raccoons, to eagles being trained like hunting dogs, to streets that are more pothole than pavement, the vivid depictions in Half a World Away create "an inspiring story that celebrates hope and second chances" (Publishers Weekly, starred review).



  • Newbery Medal, 2005
  • Starred Review, Booklist
  • Notable Children's Books, ALA
  • Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature
  • Booklinks Lasting Connections
  • Editors' Choice, Booklist
  • Capitol Choices List, Washington DC
  • Cooperative Children's Book Council Choices
  • Charlotte Award Reading List, New York
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award master, Vermont
  • Junior Library Guild selection
  • Kiriyama Prize Notable Book
  • Top Pick, KSRC Middle School Titles
  • Nene Award Master List, Hawaii
  • "Books for the Teen Age," New York Public Library
  • Pacific Northwest Young Reader's Choice Award Master List
  • Thumbs Up! Award Master List, Michigan
  • Weedflower

  • Jane Addams Peace Award
  • Pen USA Award
  • Starred Review, Booklist
  • Starred Review,School Library Journal
  • Asterisked Review, KLIATT
  • Top Ten Summer Pick, BookSense
  • Junior Library Guild selection
  • 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, New York Public Library
  • One Book for Kids, Arizone, 2007
  • Our Community Reads, St. Charles, Illinois
  • Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Book Award
  • Bluebonnet Master List, Texas, 2007-08
  • Cracker!

  • Spring Pick, Booksense, 2007
  • Premier Selection, Junior Library Guild
  • Audio Selection, Listening Library
  • Scholastic Book Fair selection
  • Scholastic Book Club selection
  • Kids Vote State Award, Kansas
  • Kids Vote State Award, Nebraska
  • Kids Vote State Award, North Carolina
  • Kids Vote, State Award, Ohio
  • Kids Vote State Award, South Carolina
  • A Million Shades of Gray

  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
  • The Thing About Luck

  • National Book Award, 2013
  • Junior Literary Guild Selection
  • Starred Review, Kirkus
  • Starred Review, Booklist
  • Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

    Speaking Engagements

    Speaking Engagement Availability Skype Only The author very rarely makes appearances anymore but will do Skype visits free of charge. You can contact her through the Appearances page on her website.