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P.S. Be Eleven (Ala Notable Children's Books. Middle Readers) Hardcover – May 21, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-After their life-changing summer in Oakland with their poet-activist mother, related in One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010), sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern find it difficult to readjust to life in Brooklyn. In addition to their grandmother's strict expectations, the girls must navigate the return of their uncle from Vietnam, their father's new romantic relationship, and their own uncontrollable love for the Jackson Five. Delphine finds some solace in corresponding with her mother, who reminds her not to take on too much or try to grow up too fast; instead she should remember to be 11. But each adult in Delphine's life has a different idea of what that means. Over the course of the book, Delphine strives to balance these conflicting perspectives and to articulate her own beliefs. From the very start of the story, her well-realized voice pulls readers into her rapidly changing world. Williams-Garcia ably integrates historical information with Delphine's story. Even secondary characters are complex and her nuanced understanding of the 1960s brings the setting to life. P.S. Be Eleven is a must-read for fans of the first book, but it can also stand alone as an engrossing novel that will leave readers pondering important issues of race, gender, and identity.-Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, ORα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* The Gaither sisters—Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern—are newly returned from a summer spent in California with their mother, Cecile, and the Black Panthers (One Crazy Summer, 2010). But life in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, with Big Ma and Pa is nothing like the freedom of Oakland, even if the girls carry back independent streaks. And while their summer may have been crazy, autumn is not exactly tame: Pa’s wearing cologne and whistling now that he has a girlfriend; Uncle Darnell’s back from Vietnam but sleeps a lot; and sixth grade has a new Zambian exchange teacher, Mr. Mwilla. Delphine speaks her worried mind in letters to Cecile, who always adds a postscript, reminding Delphine to “Be Eleven” and not a grown-up. (This makes for a nice recurring sentiment, if a somewhat clunky title.) Set against the tumultuous, yet vibrant, backdrop of the late 1960s—as Nixon campaigns against Humphrey and the Jackson Five are poised to play Madison Square Garden—the story is vividly narrated by Delphine, who reluctantly learns to ease control over her sisters and comes to a tough realization: “Twelve makes you know better than to wish for things that only eleven would wish hard for.” Even without the dynamic Black Panther characters, this soars as a finely drawn portrait of a family in flux and as a memorable slice of a specific time in our nation’s history. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer (2010) won the Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award finalist. A robust marketing campaign includes author appearances. Grades 4-7, --Ann Kelley
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Delphine and her two younger sisters return home after summer in Oakland with their mother and at Black Panthers Camp. Back to Big Ma and her old fashion ways, back to Pa and his new girlfriend, back to Uncle Darnell home from Vietnam and on drugs. Everything seems to be changing except Big Ma and her strict ways. The sisters are saving for a Jackson 5 concert, sixth grade is harder than Delphine imagined and she keeps receiving letters from her mother ending with PS BE ELEVEN, reminding the parentified young girl to enjoy her childhood.
Book #2 in the Gaithersburg Sisters trilogy is every bit as wonderful as Book #1 ONE CRAZY SUMMER as Rita Williams-Garcia once again captures the pitch perfect voice of the spunky Delphine and the unrest of the times. Her characters practically jump off the pages, as real as anyone you'd encounter, ordinary yet extraordinary, unique yet familiar.
PS BE ELEVEN brought me back to sixth grade around the time of the book's events, my first dance, feeling so much older than I was. I feel sad that there's only one more book in the series and hope Williams-Garcia considers expanding the series, perhaps making the younger sisters narrators.
THEMES: sisters, family, stepparents, coming-of-age, Vietnam, substance abusers, extended family
No matter what your age or the age of your child, PS BE ELEVEN is not to be missed.
Delphine is changing the most. She still has the weight of the world on her shoulders. She’s the big sister to 2 younger ones, who are impressionable. Being there for them, but at the same time trying to find some independence, is hard to achieve. She finds some guidance from her mother, whom she writes to often. P.S. Be Eleven is not the only advice that her mother gives but it is the one that I love the most. It’s hard to be eleven when you’re growing up and have to take on adult responsibilities.
Life in 60s Brooklyn, New York. I’ve watched a lot of documentaries and movies over the years that portray that decade. Garcia is a great storyteller so it was not hard for me to jump back in the lives of these characters. Giving these characters real problems and culture is just the icing on the cake. The Jackson 5 are these girls favorite group. I loved how the author gives you the images to put together in your head. It’s like I was transported back in time and I was there trying to make a way to go to that concert!
There are other things going on around Delphine, Fern, and Vonetta. Pa has a new lady in his life so that’s a big change for them. Their uncle Darnell is fresh out of the war in Vietnam and he’s not the same man he used to be. These girls learn a lot about adults and the hardships of life all around. I’m not sure if it was worse back then than it is now. The only things that changed are technology. The advances in technology gives kids access to things but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard being yourself. Bullying has gotten worse. To the point where suicide seems the only way out for the recipient.
I think this is a great book for anyone of any age, race and gender. There are some great life lessons to be learned reading these books and I, for one, will be reading the next book when it comes out. I can’t get enough of Garcia’s storytelling or these amazing girls that she brings to life within the pages. Definitely recommend!
p.s. michael was my favorite too!