Review: One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One Crazy Summer is an amazing journey for three young girls who travel from their Brooklyn home to live with their mother, who abandoned them seven years earlier, in Oakland. The narrator of the story, Delphine, is only eleven and she and her two sisters find themselves thrust into the pounding heart of change in 1968 and for 4 crazy weeks they learn more about the world than they ever imagined there could be. The mother they don’t know keeps them at a distance, spending much of her time working on her poetry in the kitchen where the girls are not allowed to go. Delphine and her sisters are sent to the Black Panther’s summer camp and learn that not only are they black, but that “black” means more than they ever knew: responsibility, duty, and strength. And the summer gets crazier when the girls meet not only others of their race, but Chinese and Mexican also.

This story is an eye-opening one for young readers who may not have any idea what it means to live in poverty, abandoned by a parent, kept in the dark about the history of your family life, and left to essentially raise yourself and your siblings. It is also a bright light into a period of American history, and certainly California history, when the Black Panther movement was very strong and being black had more than one definition. Author Rita Williams-Garcia is an eloquent and quiet author who gives the main character, Delphine, a voice that is as authentic as if she were real. The point of view and vocabulary in this book make it seem so plausible, even when the scenarios are impossible.

The value of this book in terms of its multicultural contribution for young readers is the perspective of the times: 1968. The historical details in this novel make it informative and valuable as a source of important information to young readers. Facts about the Black Panther’s charitable contributions to communities (summer camps and soup kitchens) add another layer of understanding for tweens and teens learning about this period in American history. Stories like this one provide a multi-cultural contribution to the overall comprehension of society in a given time and place, and this book does a beautiful job of adding a young girl’s perspective of the California civil rights movement and the rise and fall of the Black Panther’s “black power” surge in the daily life of kids her age at that time.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 4 – 7
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Amistad; Reprint edition (December 27, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060760907
ISBN-13: 978-0060760908

Amazon: Hardback: $12.00

 

Literary awards:
National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2010), Newbery Honor (2011), Scott O’Dell Award (2011), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Nominee (2012), Coretta Scott King Award for Author (2011),

Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of the Year for Fiction (2010), The Judy Lopez Memorial Award for Children’s Literature Honor (2011), Goodreads Choice Nominee (2010)

Reader’s Annotation:

One Crazy Summer is an amazing journey for three young girls who travel from their Brooklyn home to live with their mother, who abandoned them seven years earlier, in Oakland. Covers the late 1960’s period of  California history, when the Black Panther movement was very strong and being black had more than one definition, as does the definition of family and mother.

 

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