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One Crazy Summer Hardcover – January 26, 2010
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 4–7—It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poet who ran off years before and is living in Oakland. It's the summer after Black Panther founder Huey Newton was jailed and member Bobby Hutton was gunned down trying to surrender to the Oakland police, and there are men in berets shouting "Black Power" on the news. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe what her grandmother has said about her, that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that she can work on her poetry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way. Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
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*Starred Review* Eleven-year-old Delphine has only a few fragmented memories of her mother, Cecile, a poet who wrote verses on walls and cereal boxes, played smoky jazz records, and abandoned the family in Brooklyn after giving birth to her third daughter. In the summer of 1968, Delphine’s father decides that seeing Cecile is “something whose time had come,” and Delphine boards a plane with her sisters to Cecile’s home in Oakland. What they find there is far from their California dreams of Disneyland and movie stars. “No one told y’all to come out here,” Cecile says. “No one wants you out here making a mess, stopping my work.” Like the rest of her life, Cecile’s work is a mystery conducted behind the doors of the kitchen that she forbids her daughters to enter. For meals, Cecile sends the girls to a Chinese restaurant or to the local, Black Panther–run community center, where Cecile is known as Sister Inzilla and where the girls begin to attend youth programs. Regimented, responsible, strong-willed Delphine narrates in an unforgettable voice, but each of the sisters emerges as a distinct, memorable character, whose hard-won, tenuous connections with their mother build to an aching, triumphant conclusion. Set during a pivotal moment in African American history, this vibrant novel shows the subtle ways that political movements affect personal lives; but just as memorable is the finely drawn, universal story of children reclaiming a reluctant parent’s love. Grades 4-7. --Gillian Engberg
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During the summer of 1968 eleven year old Delphine and her two younger sisters fly from their father's home in Brooklyn to their mother's in Oakland, the same mother who abandoned the six years ago, the same mother who doesn't want them now. They attend a Black Panther camp and Delphine discovers the Panthers are so much more than the negative press from the media. With sometimes poignant irony, she learns to stand up for herself, to respect herself and to fight for what's right,
Although ONE CRAZY SUMMER is listed as a boon for middle graders, children, teens and adults will find things to savor from Delphine, her sisters and everyone they encounter. Rita Williams-Garcia doesn't sugarcoat the serious events, but tells the story through Delphine's serious, insightful mind. This would be a great read in English or History classes for older kids, because many of the issues are still topical. ONE CRAZY SUMMER is so good I want to read everything else Williams-Garcia has written.
Themes: sisters, family, emotional abuse/neglect, activism, prejudice, history, slanted media coverage
Regarding the mom: You want to hate her, but only an older child (and/or adult) will realize forgiveness is to love her. There are other roles and scenarios which also need further explanation throughout the book. Plus, the fact that the setting is in Summer 1968.
Some parts were complicated and difficult to explain to an 8 yr old, which is why I think older children would be a better audience.
Gave it 5 stars for expressing what abandonment might feel like to children, because not many authors describe it with as much uncategorized pain, confusion and eventual dissonance it tends to create for many.
I liked that the story honored the single father's role, as well as, the perspective of love and respect expressed by the CA friend in regard to his own father's role; regardless of dad being away. Father's play a big role in a child's life and not many author's give them credit for the positive influence.
The point of view of an 11year old was refreshing. True, some of the perceptions were adult like. But weren't we all a little adult like as tweens?
Looking foreword to reading book two.