One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Eleven-year-old Delphine has looked after her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, ever since her mother left them soon after Fern’s birth seven years ago. Now she and her sisters have traveled across the United States from Brooklyn to Oakland, California to see the mother they barely remember. Once there, they discover a distant woman who won’t let them into her kitchen, feeds them only takeout, and insists that they are gone outside all day. She sends the girls to a summer camp run by the Black Panthers where they are educated about revolution and black rights. Set during in 1968, the girls see first hand the changing times. Written with a depth of character, pitch-perfect dialogue, and a great deal of warmth, this book is an amazing work of children’s fiction.
Williams-Garcia has outdone herself with this novel. Her portrayal of the girls, their mother and the Black Panthers is done even handedly and with appreciation for what was being done. Cecile, the mother, is a complicated figure with a complex history and a fractured relationship with her children. Williams-Garcia’s depiction of her is captivating in both good and bad ways. This book reads as though it is about real people, with real personalities living during real times. The characters grow convincingly throughout the story, with no one leaving behind their personality for sudden, simple change. It is all deeper and more honest than that.
Highly recommended, I would expect this book to garner Newbery attention as well as Coretta Scott King Award interest. This would work well in a classroom, since it is filled with moments worth discussing. It would also make a fantastic summer read. Appropriate for ages 9-13.
Reviewed from library copy.