101 of 103 people found the following review helpful
When I heard that teen author Rita Williams-Garcia had written a middle grade novel for kids I wasn't moved one way or another. I don't read teen books. Couldn't say I knew much of the woman's work. When I heard that her book was about the Black Panthers, however, my interest was piqued. Black Panthers, eh? The one political group so difficult to write about that you can't find them in a single children's book (aside from "The Rock and the River" by Kekla Magoon, of course). So what was her take? How was she going to do it? But the thing is, "One Crazy Summer" is more than merely a historical tale. It's a story about family and friendships and self-sacrifice. There are so many ideas floating about this little novel that you'd think it would end up some kind of unholy mess. Instead, it's funny and painful and just a little bit brilliant. "One Crazy Summer" is a book that's going to earn itself a lot of fans. And a lot of them are going to be kids.
Eleven going on twelve Delphine has always kept a sharp eye on her little nine and seven-year-old sisters Vonetta and Fern. That's because their mother left them seven years ago and never came back again. "Cecile Johnson - mammal birth giver, alive, an abandoner - is our mother. A statement of fact." So when their father packs them on a plane and sends them to Oakland, California to see Cecile, their mom, the girls have no idea what to expect. Certainly they didn't think she'd just leave them in a kind of daycare over the summer run by members of the Black Panthers. And they probably didn't expect that their mother would want near to nothing to do with them, save the occasional meal and admonishment to keep out of her kitchen. Only Delphine knew what might happen, and she makes it her mission to not only take care of her siblings, no matter how crazy they make her, but also to negotiate the tricky waters that surround the woman who gave her up so long ago.
The whole reason this novel works is because author Rita Williams-Garcia has a fantastic story that also happens to meld seamlessly into the summer of 1968. I've been complaining for years that when it comes to the Black Panthers, there wasn't so much as a page of literature out there for kids on the topic (except the aforementioned "The Rock and the River" and even that's almost teen fare). Now "One Crazy Summer" is here. Certainly I don't know how Ms. Williams-Garcia set about writing the darn thing, but if she had stridently set about to teach without taking into consideration the essentials of good storytelling, this book would have sank like a stone. Instead, she infuses this tale with danger, characters you want to take a turn about the block with, and the heat of an Oakland sun.
I mean, take the people in this book! Someone once sold this story to me as "The Penderwicks meets the Black Panthers" and for the longest time I couldn't figure out why they`d said it. Then I started thinking back to the sisters. Ms. Wiliams-Garcia must have sisters. She must. How else to explain the dynamic between Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern? So it all became clear. If you love the family dynamics of "The Penderwicks", you'll probably find yourself loving the same thing here. Of course, when your heroine is an upright citizen like Delphine there is a danger of making her too goody goody to like. But this girl isn't like that. She has a duty that she believes in (taking care of her sisters) and she'll do it, even when they fight each other. Even when they team up against HER! The sheer unfairness of what Delphine has to handle, and the cheery lack of complaining (aside from the occasional and very understandable grumble) makes you care for her. Her interactions with her mother are what make you love her.
Because this mother is a pip. Cecile throws a wrench (and a couple of other metal objects besides, I'd wager) into the good guy/bad guy way of looking at things. For kids, she's a pretty clear-cut villain from page one onward. And adults who have enough historical understand to be clear on why she does some of the things she does still won't like her. I wouldn't even be surprised if some parents referred to her as the world's worst mother. She isn't really, but many a parent's ire will be raised when they see how she refuses to call her daughter Fern by her name out of spite, or refuses to so much as look her own daughters for a while. Heck, this may be the only book where the phrase, "Should have gone to Mexico to get rid of you when I had the chance," comes from the lips of a parental unit (not that any kid in the world would decipher what it means). Under normal circumstances, when you get a kid talking about the selfishness of their parent at the beginning of a book they turn out to be wrong in the end. So naturally I was waiting on tenterhooks for much of this book to see if Cecile would be perfectly redeemed by the story's end. Williams-Garcia never wraps anything up with a cute little bow, but she gives you closure with Cecile and maybe a drop of understanding. It's a far better solution.
Williams-Garcia will even use character development to place the story within the context of its time. The opinionated Big Ma who raised the three girls gives her thoughts on any matter rain or shine. Delphine then lists them, and kids are treated to a quickie encapsulation of life in '68. Pretty sneaky. Teaches `em when they're not looking. And one of those very topics is the Black Panther party. I was very pleased with how Williams-Garcia sought to define that group. She dispels misconceptions and rumors. Delphine herself often has to come to grips with her initial perceptions and the actual truths. As for the rest of the time period itself, little details spotted throughout the book make 1968 feel real. For example, the girls play a game where they count the number of black characters on television shows and commercials. Or the one time Delphine had felt truly scared, when a police officer in Alabama pulled her father over.
And, I'm sorry. You can make amazing, believable characters all day if you want to, but there's more to writing than just that. This writer doesn't just conjure up people. She has a way with a turn of a phrase. Three Black Panthers talking with Cecile are, "Telling it like it is, like talking was their weapon." Later Cecile tells her eldest daughter, "It wouldn't kill you to be selfish, Delphine." This book is a pleasure to cast your eyes over.
There is a moment near the end of the book when Fern recites a poem that is just so good that I couldn't seriously believe that a seven-year-old would be able to pull it off. So I mentioned this fact to a teacher and a librarian and found myself swiftly corrected. "Oh no," said the librarian. "Seven is when kids are at their most shockingly creative. It's only later that they start worrying about whether or not it's any good." So I'm willing to believe that Fern's poem could have happened. Otherwise, I certainly would have appreciated an Author's Note at the end with information about the Black Panthers for kids who wanted to learn more. And I was also left wondering where Delphine got her name. She spends a bit of time agonizing over that question, why her mother named her that, and never really finds out. Some kind of explanation there would have been nice.
It was teacher Monica Edinger who pointed out that "One Crazy Summer" pairs strangely well with "Cosmic" if you look at them in terms of fathers (on the "Cosmic" side) and mothers ("One Crazy Summer"'s focus). That's one theme for the book, but you could pluck out so many more if you wanted to. Race and family and forgiveness and growth. Everyone grows in this book. Everyone learns. But you'll have so much fun reading it you might not even notice. You might just find yourself happily ensconced in the world of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern without ever wishing to leave it. If this is how Ms. Williams-Garcia writes books for kids, then she better stop writing all that teen fare and crank a couple more like this one. Kids are gonna dig it.
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
In 1968, the world is in the midst of a great change. In April, Martin Luther King. Jr. is assassinated, and President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act. The Black Panthers organize to promote Black Power in Oakland. All the news reports and history books rarely talk about the silent witnesses to these great societal changes. Who were the children? How did history change their lives?
In the summer of 1968, eleven year old Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, take a plane from Brooklyn to visit their mother Cecile in Oakland, California. Her father and Big Ma don't exactly approve of crazy Cecile, but keeping the children from their mother forever is not the solution either. As every good sister does, Delphine takes care of her younger sisters, especially now on this new journey and under instructions from her family to do so. Cecile isn't exactly a fairy tale mother. Rather than cook homemade meals, she gives them money to buy Chinese take-out. Cecile's kitchen is off limits. Strange men in Afros and black berets knock on her door demanding her assistance. Cecile sends her three daughters to a summer camp headed by the revolutionary Black Panthers. Delphine's summer in Oakland isn't exactly the kind of experience her teachers back home would expect in a "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay!
In ONE CRAZY SUMMER, readers see the historical changes through the eyes of Delphine. With humor, honesty, and innocence, Delphine comments on the events unfolding before her in the way only a child can. Delphine is quite conscious of the differences between blacks and whites in society, yet she is also a girl who responds from her heart rather than from slogans or mandates from others. Delphine is intelligent, taking the initiative to educate herself and to protect her sisters, yet she is still a little girl who longs for a mother to protect her. In ONE CRAZY SUMMER, Delphine embarks on a journey that will change her forever, not only in the societal changes she witnesses but also a journey that will bring her closer to understanding her mother and herself.
ONE CRAZY SUMMER takes a reader into the heart of history through the eyes of a child. What better way to tell the story to young readers? Delphine's voice sees what history books do not. Through Delphine's eyes, Rita Williams-Garcia gives life to memorable characters who inspire the imagination. Delphine's innocence and intelligence pinpoint the essentials in a way a self-conscious adult does not. Her humor brings a delightful, refreshing view of the world before her, a view that tempers some of the tragic events that accompany the struggles of this era. No matter what one's age, young reader, young adult or adult, ONE CRAZY SUMMER leaves a reader with the wonderful lasting and speechless satisfaction of entering a world created by a master storyteller. In addition to young readers, ONE CRAZY SUMMER is very highly recommended to all those adults, white and black, who like Delphine and this reader, witnessed the unfolding of the Civil Rights Movement in their hometowns. Quite simply, no other story has spoken to me, or the child that I was back then, as does this novel. ONE CRAZY SUMMER gives voice to all those things seen, all those emotions, which often remain unspoken to others decades later. When I reached the last line of the author's notes, a tear of joy filled my eye from the thankfulness that Rita Williams-Garcia put this story in words. ONE CRAZY SUMMER is an outstanding book, a book this reader expects to win several awards.
COURTESY OF BOOK ILLUMINATIONS
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2010
Gold Star Award Winner!
It's 1968 and Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are being sent to California to visit the mother that abandoned them soon after Fern was born. The girls have grand ideas about a mother who will hug them and take them to Disneyland.
Instead, their mother, Cecile, doesn't want anything to do with them, cares more about her poetry, and sends them for Chinese take-out every night. She's more concerned about her work and sends the girls to a Blank Panther-run summer camp during the day. The girls learn about revolution and family in a summer they will never forget.
It's hard to express how wonderful this book is and how much I adored it. I was pretty sure I would enjoy it, since I had been hearing a positive buzz. But I was completely unprepared for how much this book would pull me in and not let go. I couldn't put it down.
This is a quiet book. It's not an action filled book, and there wasn't any suspense that made me keep turning pages. It was just the beautifully written story of three sisters discovering their mother and themselves. There was just something about it that really resonated with me as a reader and I had to keep reading this one; I couldn't stop.
The writing is superb. This is a middle grade novel, but the author never writes down to her audience, and the characters are beautifully realistic and the dynamics between the sisters is spot-on. I loved Delphine - I think she's one of my new favorite characters in children's lit. In many ways, she is wise beyond her years, being the oldest sister and having to care for her younger sisters and mediating their quarrels. But she's also a child herself, and she lets herself finally be a child during this summer. The reader gets to know Delphine so much during the course of the story that the reader ends up growing with her - and Ms. Williams-Garcia pulls it off beautifully.
I really could keep gushing about this book, but instead you should get yourself a copy. Highly recommended for tweens and up.
Reviewed by: Sarah Bean the Green Bean Teen Queen
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2010
One Crazy Summer takes place in the summer of 1968, a year of tumultuous change in the United States. Eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are on their first airplane ride to Oakland to visit their mother who abandoned them seven years ago. They are filled with both trepidation and excitement, as they leave the safety of their dad and grandma to reacquaint themselves with a mother who didn't want them.
Delphine tells their story and her voice rings loud and clear. She is the oldest and takes her responsibilities seriously. She is in charge of her sisters, and makes sure that they (and everyone else) understand that. The other sisters are beautifully drawn also. Vonetta is all "ham and show," always itching to be the center of attention. And Fern is the baby of the family, a tad needy and always clutching her baby doll.
When the girls meet their mother, Cecile, their worst fears are realized. She's late to pick them up at the airport, no hugs, clipped sentences and no home cooked meals. She's not exactly vying for mother of the year. She's a poet, and her kitchen is mysteriously off limits to the kids. She hands them money for take-out Chinese food, and forces them to attend a Black Panther-sponsored summer day camp.
As readers we learn so much about what was going on at the time, and we see it through the eyes of these three young sisters. We watch as they come to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panthers, Huey Lewis and the true meaning of Revolution. When Delphine learns that they are supposed to participate in a rally, her fear is palpable. She's worried about the danger and tells one of the counselors that she doesn't want to participate, that she has to take care of her sisters. Sister Mukumbu tells her:
"We look out for each other. The rally is one way of looking out for all of our sisters. All of our brothers. Unity, Sister Delphine. We have to stand united."
Williams-Garcia does a beautiful job depicting the charged atmosphere that was such a part of the summer of 1968. And while there's danger in the air, there's also an incredible feeling of community amongst the people involved at the "summer camp." The rally is a pivotal point for each of the girls. For in their own ways, each one of them changes and matures during their month in Oakland. Their initial perceptions of many things are challenged, and by the end of the month they see things very differently.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the book for me is Delphine's journey. She discovers so much about herself, and about the mother that left her. For although Cecile never emerges as any sort of mother role model, you get a better sense of who she is, and why she did what she did.
One Crazy Summer is one of those rare middle-grade books that I didn't want to end. Williams-Garcia does a masterful job writing about a time period I think kids will find fascinating and educational. There's no better way to learn about about history than by viewing it through the eyes of a child. Delphine is the perfect narrator for one of the most fascinating, turbulent periods of American history. I highly recommend One Crazy Summer.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 2010
Eleven-year-old Delphine and her two sisters, Vonetta and Fern, live with their father and Big Ma, their guiding light grandmother, in Brooklyn. Their birth mother, Cecile, is in Oakland, California, doing her own thing during the summer of 1968. However, against her wishes, Delphine must spend her summer vacation with Cecile. She hopes she can put together some of the mysteries of her childhood and her mother's life, but is not excited about leaving home and having to continue to take care of her younger sisters in a strange place.
Cecile is a revolutionary, and having kids isn't really her main focus. She isn't a completely absent mom, but neither is she a particularly curious or protective one. She works with the Black Panthers, the revolutionary black movement that fostered controversy throughout the late '60s and early '70s. Like their Greenwich Village equivalents, these activists saw their activities as upstanding and necessary as a response to the craziness of the world at the time. It's a fascinating period to set a coming-of-age story against, and Rita Williams-Garcia does it without making the story too dark or frightening.
ONE CRAZY SUMMER captures both the unpredictable energy of the time and sets Delphine and her sisters right down in the midst of the some of the most politically charged and psychedelic experiences that closed out a decade of extreme change in the United States. When Cecile ends up getting arrested, the girls, especially Delphine, learn a valuable lesson about political intent and the democratic system. Delphine is a thoughtful, sweet 11-year-old, so the author has the opportunity to see this remarkable cultural period through new but attentive eyes, which makes the book a genuine page turner as well.
Family is such an average topic for books written for this audience, but Williams-Garcia finds new and interesting ways to discover the ins and outs of "family" in various incarnations. The Panthers are a family, too, and Cecile finds them easier to deal with than the family she created biologically. But as time goes on, her maternal instincts start to make an appearance, and she and her girls find common and uncontroversial ground they can tread together towards a new future where their own family shares Cecile's favors with her political family.
ONE CRAZY SUMMER is an excellent book --- brave, bold, funny, sad and endlessly interesting --- and will start many worthwhile discussions with your favorite young reader.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Every student who makes it to middle school has heard of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but how many know about Malcolm X or the Black Panthers? An underrepresented piece of this important history comes alive in this tale of sisterhood, motherhood, and a bigger need to be heard and treated with equality. In Rita Williams-Garcia's beautifully written story, One Crazy Summer comes alive with the way the world existed in Oakland in 1968.
Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are packed up and ready to be shipped across the country to spend the summer with their mother Cecile who they haven't seen in years. Once Fern was born, Cecile left them to be cared for by their father and grandmother in Brooklyn and never looked back. While Big Ma questions Papa's judgment for sending them across the country to a woman who doesn't want them, the girls are full of nerves and excitement. As the oldest, Delphine is expected to make sure her sisters behave and don't embarrass Big Ma and Papa by being the "black girls everyone expects them to be". The color of their skin means they have to be better behaved than any white girl would have to be.
When they arrive in California, it is clear Cecile didn't want them to come. She sends them by themselves to get Chinese food for dinner every night and to the Center to get free breakfast every morning. She won't even let them into her kitchen to get a proper glass of water. And she doesn't hold back from reminding them that she didn't want them there in the first place. When there is a knock on the door, she shoos them into the back room and tells them to stay back there and stay quiet. But Delphine can't help but peak and she sees men in black clothes with large afros: Black Panthers. She had seen some Panthers in Brooklyn, but they weren't like the men she sees now, with her mother. As the days continue on and Delphine continues to take care of her sisters while her mother ignores them, she starts to learn more and more about who she is as a young black woman. The Center is full of Panther information and the summer classes revolve around learning not to trust The Man. While others are content to fight in any way they can, Delphine can't help but remember her one priority: keeping her sister safe. And if the Man shot an unarmed black boy in his underwear just because he was a Panther, they wouldn't think twice about three little girls who their own mother doesn't even want.
This story was so rich with amazing historical facts and personal, real family emotions that I can barely wrap my head around it all! First and foremost is the emotional family dynamic. Williams-Garcia must have younger sisters because this incredibly realistic portrayal of three sisters is so perfect it made me laugh and cringe thinking about my own childhood with my sister. Everything from the way they parrot their older sister, to their precocious goofiness, to their enthusiasm about everything Delphine doesn't want them to do, all of it is so skillfully written you would think you were there with your own sisters!
Then you have Cecile. At first I was shocked their father would just ship them out to her, but I realized by the end that he cared about her and trusted her with his kids. Cecile was such a dynamic yet subtle character that you really had to read between the lines to fully appreciate the character Williams-Garcia created. At first it appeared she was working for the Black Panthers, and then it felt like she was somehow forced into it. Then it seemed she didn't believe everything they stood for and then she lectured her daughter about being her own woman and not adopting the housewife subservience her gender has been forced into. It was a little confusing at times, but it made Cecile more human, more real. But more importantly, this story gave life to the Women of this movement, the women caught in between a war of men. From Big Ma back home, a poor but strong southern woman, to the ladies at the Center to Cecile, this was a wonderful book to allow your young readers to see a side of the story never talked about: how it affected the women these men belonged to. I loved this angle on the story, especially since we never hear about the women of the Black Panther movement.
And finally, this story is a much needed addition to the world of our cultural and racial history in this country. Everyone likes to talk about MLK, but what about the other side of the movement? They are an important part of our legacy, but it isn't taught as openly in schools, so I am glad to see a book that is appropriate for middle readers that also opens their eyes to a part of their cultural they most likely haven't been exposed to yet. There isn't a deep understanding of the Panthers, but enough to pique their interest. This might be a story best taught in a class or read with a parent in order to help them fully understand the nature of the revolution. I am really glad there is a book like this out there. It is a great addition to the shelves of our libraries and our classrooms.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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. You have to wonder how she got so good at all of that, especially since she lives with her father, Papa, and her grandmother, Big Ma. Don't you think that they should be parenting the younger girls so that Delphine can be a child herself? Are you getting that feeling again?
The majority of the book is about how Delphine and her sisters cope with their month in hostile territory. How they spend their days at the Black Panthers' summer camp. How they learn to deal with and even fit in with the other kids. How they adapt to the "black" identity they are being taught after their proper "Negro" upbringing. How they eat Chinese food every night until Delphine demands to be allowed into her mother's sacred kitchen because the girls need home cooking.
But behind it all, their mother's absent presence lurks, along with their father behind that. Cecile aka "Nzila" remains a mystery until nearly the tail end of the book, and the book is really about Delphine's (and her sisters') drive to reach their mother somehow. Over and over again the girls reach out in small, tentative ways, and over and over again they grasp little but air. Nevertheless, Cecile/Nzila's presence slowly and subtly grows in the background until we - and Delphine - can begin to make out at least the bare outlines of a real person. Maybe even a person who isn't quite so contemptible as we think. Maybe there's even the slightest bit of sympathy left in her.
And then we find out the horrible truth that crystallizes those niggling feelings, those cold little suspicions of Papa and even Big Ma. Suddenly we learn just exactly what kind of man sends his kids alone to a mother who doesn't want them. At this point the book almost tries to convince us that a miraculous transformation has occurred and maybe Cecile isn't such a bad mother after all. But the attempt at a feel-good ending isn't quite convincing, and maybe we still don't really like Cecile all that much. But maybe we understand her just a bit better, and maybe we realize that our contempt has been misplaced. Cecile may not exactly be honorable, but our contempt should be reserved for the man who created the whole situation in the first place.
This is a very hard book to rate. Overall, the book is very well written. Ms. Williams-Garcia has a way with words, and she's drawn up some believable, three-dimensional characters. Delphine's narrative voice is pitch-perfect for the overly mature and responsible woman-child that she is, and I could see the world clearly through her eyes. Ms. Williams-Garcia is at her best in describing the close/dysfunctional relationship among the three motherless little girls, and their ambiguous relationship with the adults in their lives.
The parts of the book dealing with the Black Panthers and life in 1968 Oakland felt a little weaker to me, but then, it almost seems like just the background to the story Ms. Williams-Garcia really wanted to tell: the story of a predatory man, the girl he used, and the rippling effects on the generation they created. That story is powerfully told, but it's not a pleasant story. It's the kind of story that leaves you both heartbroken and in need of a bath.
Although there is nothing overtly violent in the book, there is a level of cruelty, even depravity, that I think calls for a more mature audience than the intended target of this book. In order to appreciate this book, children must be able to move beyond black/white, good/bad dichotomies and be able to understand nuance and circumstance. I'd suggest that parents of younger readers provide some guidance, perhaps even read it with your child. Although the publisher's guidelines say that it is for age 9-12, I wouldn't recommend it for kids much younger than 12 without adult support.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2011
Most fiction I read tends to be about white middle-class experiences. I also most often pick novels which depict my own experiences or are obviously so fantastical that they serve as purely escapist literature. If a book fits neither of these categories, chances are you will find me instead in the nonfiction section. One Crazy Summer is different from my typical read. It is the fictional experience of three sisters during the 1960's African-American revolution.
In certain ways, One Crazy Summer is about experiences which anyone can have. For example, Delphine and her sister struggle with abandonment issues, because their mom left them years ago to their father's care. As for our heroine, Delphine, she serves as a protector to her young sisters. Being the oldest naturally led to her also being the most responsible. She knows how to act quiet, say the right words to avoid danger, as well as to stay clean, cook, and shop for household items including groceries. Despite her maturity, she is only eleven. As such, she fears standing up to their mother whom they visit for four weeks. She also at times squabbles with her sisters, punches boys who tease her, and displays attitude towards prejudice shown her due to her sex, age, or color.
In other ways, One Crazy Summer is one particular time, place, and situation. The time is 1968. The place is Oakland, California. And the situation (according to the book flap) is "one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history". In the form of story, rather than through newspapers, biographies, or documentaries, One Crazy Summer educates us about the past. We learn about the Black Panther Party. We also learn about some real and fictional arrests, rallies, advertising, and revolution that occurred during the time period of the book. Finally, we learn about how children like Delphine and her sisters (who are eleven and younger) might have viewed, been effected by, or even helped bring about radical change.
In one touching and cute chapter, Dephine presents her case to her mother for buying a television. While we wait for a verdict, Delpine recalls how the sisters like to count all the shows with black characters, how many lines they were given, and even the number of commercials with black actors. In another heavier and more disturbing chapter, we are introduced to the first member of the Black Panthers. The police surprised the Black Panthers who fled inside a house for shelter. Little Bobby surrendered by taking off all his clothes except underwear to show he didn't have a gun. The police still shot and killed him. The news made Delphine angry but also afraid to protest. She now faces a choice about whether to retreat to the safety of her mother's home or to participate in a rally which holds potential for real danger.
As I noted earlier, this book is about experiences many of us share. On the lighter side, most of us have taken airplane trips, been teased about some cherished possession, stuck up for our siblings or friends, and felt attracted to the opposite sex. In one particularly fun chapter, the sisters travel by themselves on a bus to San Francisco. They see hippies, visit Chinatown, explore Fisherman's Wharf, and marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge. Yet this book is also about situations that not everyone experiences. Consider that twice during their trip, white people attempt to take pictures of the sisters as if they were zoo exhibits and not human beings. One Crazy Summer has strong characters, attitude and humor, which all help create an enjoyable read. It also however reveals tough truths about racism, which make it an important read.
In a recent trip to my library, I not only picked up lists of classics and genre books, but also books set in other places and about other cultures or dealing with tough topics and life changes. Hopefully, my reading experiences will continue to diversify over the upcoming months. For, after all, books should take us beyond our own experiences too.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2012
Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer does a wonderful job writing this touching story about three girls, Delphine, Vonetta and Fern who experience a summer like no other. They were abandoned by their mother seven years prior and are sent by their father to get to know her. They travel from their home in Brooklyn to see their mother in Oakland, California that they do not know. Unfortunately, they are not welcomed by her and are forced to care for themselves, but luckily they already know how. The mother demands that they stay at the People's Center after eating breakfast there, they must not to leave, and they must join the Black Panther Camp. Delphine, the eldest, had hopes for her mother but comes to terms that she is crazy. The author takes the reader through a wonderful story filled with black history, black pride, and the Black Panther movement. I personally enjoyed it. This would be a great book that could be included in the classroom library or perhaps used in a history lesson. I think I will definitely include it on my books over "history."
24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2010
This book has had a lot of Newbery hype, so I was looking forward to it.
I liked the characters: 11-year-old Delphine who looks out for her younger sisters, is smart and sensible and mature beyond her years. Her little sisters Fern and Vonetta sort of lump together, since the story focuses on Delphine, but their relationship is genuine -- not picture perfect (and thus unrealistic), but admirable nonetheless.
The story is set in the late 60's in Oakland, California. The sisters are put on an airplane from Brooklyn to visit their poet mother, from whom they've been estranged (and who doesn't really want to see them now). When the girls get there, they don't get any mothering, although they do get to know her a little bit more, as they become involved in a Black Panther protest.
Seems a bit heavy for even an older middle grade reader, right? The tone is not heavy, but I'm just not sure it would be interesting. Heavy issues like disability, race, and political injustice as told through a child's eyes seem more matter-of-fact and less shocking, but while I think it's valuable for kids of this generation to read about the race struggles of our recent past, I'm not sure that the political Black Panther elements would transfer well.
I liked this book well enough, but I didn't love it.
I listened to the audio version of this book, which did not add or subtract from the telling in any way.