The Thing About Luck

The Thing About Luck

Illustrated by: Julia Kuo
For Ages: 10 - 14
  • 2awards
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, 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.

Cynthia Kadohata’s ode to the breadbasket of America has received six starred reviews and won the National Book Award.
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 304 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781442474659 | 
  • June 2014 | 
  • Grades 5 - 9
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Read an Excerpt

The Thing About Luck CHAPTER ONE
Kouun is “good luck” in Japanese, and one year my family had none of it. We were cursed with bad luck. Bad luck chased us around, pointing her bony finger. We got seven flat tires in six weeks. I got malaria, one of fifteen hundred cases in the United States that year. And my grandmother’s spine started causing her excruciating pain.

Furthermore, random bad smells emanated from we knew not where. And my brother, Jaz, became cursed with invisibility. Nobody noticed him... see more

About the Author

Cynthia Kadohata
Photo Credit:

Cynthia Kadohata

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, and several critically acclaimed adult novels, including The Floating World. She lives with her son and dog in West Covina, California.

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