The thing about luck by Cynthia Kadohata

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Simon & Schuster, 2013. ISBN 9781471116858.
(Age: Junior Fiction) Written by the well-known Newbery Award winner of Kira-Kira, here is a vivid picture of life on the vast wheat farms of the United States. Summer and her family have recently suffered great misfortune and they are about to be tested again. Summer's parents work for a custom harvesting company in Kansas - such contracting exists in parts of Australia too - but this year her mother and father must return to Japan to take care of elderly relatives. Summer's maternal grandparents decide to come out of retirement, with grandfather working as a combine driver and grandmother as a cook, with Summer as her helper. Young brother Jaz will come along too. It seems that the family is beset with further bad luck as the hard and long working days begin. Summer is a wonderful 'philosopher' - she mesmerises the reader with her knowledge, intuition and wisdom. She informs us about the harvesting process and includes her own little sketches of how things work. She sets the scenes beautifully in the first person narrative and identifies problems and consequences with assurance, often with humour, and is a sheer delight to read about.
She assumes responsibility for a great deal, knowing that her grandfather is struggling with the work, her grandmother continuing to experience extreme back pain and her brother still unable to lift his veil of invisibility. The weight of the world is on her shoulders!
This book is charming on all levels - the location, the characters, the experiences and the voice of Summer. Kadohata's storytelling skill is extraordinary. Just enjoy this book!
Julie Wells