Kimiko's true love of reading and writing began one day at her local library. Kimiko says, "My local librarian asked me if I had ever read Harriet the Spy. She said that it was a great book, and I immediately took it home. I read the entire book that day! I was so disappointed when it ended that I reread it immediately. I had to find a way to keep the spirit of Harriet the Spy alive with me, so I began to keep a journal. And spy on people. I did not follow anyone, but I would try to pick up what people were saying, and I would study their mannerisms. I think Harriet the Spy was the book that got me to write because I really started to look at the world and put down what I saw on paper."
By fifth grade, Kimiko won an essay contest sponsored by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her essay was about Abraham Lincoln and her victory earned her $3. At that moment, Kimiko concluded that, "Writing was a great way to make a living."
Kimiko won another writing contest when she was twelve, and this time she got to spend a day at the Bucks County Courier Times writing her own column. "I loved it. They took me around and introduced me to all the people that put the newspaper together. I felt like somebody special until they ran my photo in the paper. I was horrified that everyone at school would see it. I looked so nerdy!"
In high school, Kimiko was published in Seventeen Magazine. She was also the assistant editor and columnist for her high school newspaper. "At that point," Kimiko says, "I told my parents that I wanted to become a writer. My parents were unhappy with my decision. They told me that I should become a businesswoman instead."
Kimiko's mom is Japanese and her dad is American. Her parents met after World War II. They didn't even speak the same language when they were married.
Her mom was born in Tokyo in 1929. In an essay that Kimiko wrote when she was in eighth grade, she wrote, "There are no pictures of my mother when she was a child because they were all burned during the war. My mother was eleven years old when World War II started. She sometimes only had toothpaste to eat." During the war, Kimiko's mother lost nine relatives in one day during the bombing of Hiroshima. Soon after the war, Kimiko's grandmother died of cancer. The very next day, her aunt fell from a train and died from head injuries. Kimiko says, "My mom's life is filled with tragic stories that she rarely tells."
"In fact, my family has been the inspiration for most of my books. I credit my son, Chris, for starting my career as an author. When he was little, he fell in love with trains. What Chris wanted most in the world was a book with photographs of steam trains for young children. Fortunately, for me, that book didn't exist. After two years of searching, I decided to write and photograph the book that Chris so desperately wanted to read."
According to Kimiko, "Working on my books has helped me make sense of my life and helped me deal with the pain of growing up Eurasian. There were children in my neighborhood who wouldn't play with me when I was a kid. Some of them threw rocks at me and called me, "slanty eyes." Having grown up wishing I looked like most everyone else, I understand how important it is to give children an awareness and appreciation of our external differences and a realization that, underneath it all, we are very much the same. I feel that through teaching children to respect others we give them something even more important: self-respect."
"For several years, I have truly enjoyed reading old Japanese folklore and adapting those stories for an American audience. This is very therapeutic work for me. When I was little, I would go to sleep and wish that I would wake up looking like all the other kids. Now, I take pride in my heritage. Writing books has helped me grow as a person. It's very empowering. After all these years of feeling oppressed and ashamed of my background, I now feel that I can make a positive difference. "