February 8, 2011

Book Talk: One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer  By Rita Williams-Garcia Amistad
Delphine's mother left her and her 2 younger sisters when she was only 5.  She has a few memories of her mother, but not enough to really know her.  Her grandmother, Big Mama lets her know that her mother was selfish and thankless.  Delphine's Pa sends her and her sister, Vonetta and Fern to Oakland to meet their mother and stay with her for 6 weeks during the summer of 1968.  
The girls board a plane in Brooklyn and wait anxiously in the LA airport for their mother to claim them.  When their mother, Cecile arrives, she isn't much of a mother.  She doesn't hug them or ask them how they have been for the last 6 years.  She complains about their arrival, saying. "I never asked for y'all to come out here anyhow."  She won't cook for them, and shoos them out of the house as soon as they wake up in the morning.  
On their first night in Oakland, 2 Black Panthers show up at Cecile's door.  After being sent to their room, the girls overhear that the Black Panthers need Cecile to help them print fliers for an upcoming rally.  The girls are immediately frightened, because Big Mama has always told them that Black Panthers just stir trouble.  The girls have been raised to say "yes m'am" and "no m'am" and to not make a "big negro spectacle" out of themselves.  
Each morning, the girls go to The People's Center, where they are served breakfast by The Black Panthers, and then go to classes where they learn about civics, their rights and how to deal with police officers.  At the end of the summer, the girls are to participate in a rally for the youngest Black Panther, Little Bobby, who was killed by white police officers during a raid.  Delphine is very afraid, and doesn't want her sisters anywhere near that rally.  After an excursion to San Fransisco, the 3 girls come home to find their mother and 2 Black Panthers being arrested.  Their mother doesn't claim them, and they are left to their own devices until she is set free.  You will need to read the book for yourself to see if Cecile becomes the mother Delphine always wanted, whether or not the girls go to the rally and if the girls arrive back home safely.

This is a wonderful historical fiction novel for children 10+.  The novel would be a great fit as a social studies read aloud, especially when learning about segregation and the fight for equal rights.  I did my research as I read this book, and learned that The Black Panthers started in Oakland in 1966.  In One Crazy Summer, The Panthers spend a lot of time talking about the founder of the Panthers, Huey Newton, who was in prison for shooting and killing a police officer.  I learned that the conviction was overturned in 1970, and Newton was set free.  Students could read this novel without having knowledge of The Black Panthers, Malcolm X and the fight for equal rights, and they would still enjoy a wonderful story about family and friendship.  I love finding a great historical fiction book that reads like a contemporary story- and One Crazy Summer is that book!


  1. I'm reading this one right now and enjoying it. Thanks for the review! (I clicked over from Semicolon.)

  2. Thanks for the detailed review. I loved this book, too. I clicked over from LibraryThing. Our libraries are similar!