Becoming a reader is an integral part of being a life-long learner. Unfortunately, many children today do not understand the joy of just sitting down and enjoying a good book. Even in our wired world, reading is essential. Therefore, I will often share books here that I have enjoyed. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia is one of the very best.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 1968 - Oakland, California
Themes: abandonment, racism, oppression, poverty, responsibility, prejudices, discrimination, individuality, character
Highly Recommended: Grades 4 and up
Accelerated Reader Book Level: 4.6
- Nominee -- National Book Award for Young People's Literature (2010)
- Newbery Honor Book (2011)
- Scott O'Dell Historical Fiction Award (2011)
- Coretta Scott King Author Award (2011)
- Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010)
- Many other nominations and awards.
I originally wrote this review for my book review blog: Lost in the Library. As a librarian as well as a tech integration specialist, I love talking about and sharing wonderful books with my students. Lost in the Library is one way I attempt to do this.
One Crazy Summer is a powerful little gem of a read and one of the best pieces of children's literature I have ever read. For that reason, I felt it was worth sharing this review again here. Rita Williams-Garcia's characters, especially Delphine, leap off the page, grab hold of the reader, and just do not let go. One Crazy Summer is not only a great summer read; it's a great read. Period.
The story takes place in one of the most pivotal and chaotic years in the history of the United States -- 1968. The year is also crazy for Delphine, Vonetta and Fern, traveling across the country for a summer visit with a mother who abandoned them seven years earlier. Williams-Garcia chose to tell her story in first person, from Delphine's point-of-view, and Delphine's "old soul" voice shines through the prose, loud, clear and fabulous, as she balances the responsibility for caring for her sisters with her own need for someone to mother her.
Eleven-year-old Delphine, the only one of the sisters to have any memories of their mother, has borne the role of "mother" for her younger sisters most of her life. Although nervous about seeing her mother again, Delphine has visions of a glorious summer vacation and a joyful reunion with her mother. The girls' mother, Cecile, however, resents the girls' visit and sends them to the community center run by the Black Panthers each day to keep them out of her way as she focuses on her writing.
At the community center, Delphine and her sisters are immersed in the culture and propaganda of the Black Panther Movement. They learn about the Movement's jailed leader Huey Newton and the tragic story of Panther martyr, Bobby Hutton. As they learn more about the Movement and the discrimination that still existed during that time, the girls begin to balance what they learn with their own beliefs and experiences and are able to survive and thrive during One Crazy Summer.
Though the period depicted was somewhat violent and the issues addressed in the novel are serious and mature, Rita Williams-Garcia reveals her themes in a child-friendly format. There is some mild racially-based name calling, but the violence of the period is not graphically depicted. Cecile's abandonment of her family and her cavalier attitude toward her daughters is addressed in a way that can be understood according to each reader's individual maturity level.
As evidenced by the sheer number of awards for One Crazy Summer, this is a book not to be missed.