In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them.
Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She's had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.
This moving, funny novel won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award Finalist. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern's story continues in P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.
Readers who enjoy Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming will find much to love in One Crazy Summer. This novel was the first featured title for Marley D’s Reading Party, launched after the success of #1000BlackGirlBooks. Maria Russo, in a New York Times list of "great kids' books with diverse characters," called it "witty and original."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book opens with three young sisters, ages 11, 9 and 7, on a plane flying alone to meet their mother who abandoned them soon after the birth of the youngest, and who doesn't want them now. At this point, everything that is decent in you should be screaming, "What the hell kind of a "parent" would ship their children off to a "parent" who didn't want them?" Pay attention to that feeling - it's important to this book.
Not unexpectedly, the girls' "mammal birth giver" is less than warm or receptive upon their arrival. She shows up late to claim them like so much baggage and then can't be bothered to cook or care for them or even waste time on them other than making a few offhand cruel comments. The caring part falls to the eldest, our narrator Delphine, who is amazingly good at it. She knows just how and when to break up a fight, how to keep her sisters from making a "grand Negro spectacle", and how to comfort and reassure even when she's far from comforted herself...
I really enjoyed this window into a collage of experiences that I, as a white person, cannot directly relate to for the most part. Williams-Garcia addresses abandonment, too-early responsibility, and the day-to-day life of the late-60s Black Panther movement in Oakland. While I know something about being the daughter of a woman who is not capable of being a mother, I only know snippets about the Black Panthers, and they are largely shaped by mainstream media. Regarding this theme, there are many nuances to be gleaned between the lines, such as a woman's reticence to fully engage in the movement, or the implications of a child ratting out a fink. Published in 2011, this book still holds current cultural significance for large portions of our society. Personally, this is one of those times when an artful novel brings me some understanding of a life I'll never experience, and hopefully enlarges my own humanity in doing so. May I approach the enlightenment here offered as a fellow being...
Loved the accuracy of the history and the authentic protagonist's voice. Learned a lot about the Black Panthers and Oakland in the 1960s. Great to use as a comparison to the ideas of MLK, Jr. and Malcolm X. In light of recent tragedies and crimes against unarmed black men, it is also an excellent conversation starter. Since it's geared for 4-6th grade, it's the kind of book you could read with adults and have a good conversation. Sometimes the BLM conversation is too tough. This removes the tension a little and still allows for honest dialog. HIGHLY recommended (get your Kleenex, too).
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