One Crazy Summer by Rita Willaims-Garcia - book review

Even with all the buzz surrounding One Crazy Summer, I didn’t really expect to like it and I certainly wouldn’t have ever picked it off the shelf as a fun read. I thought I’d quietly read the 50 pages (like I promised my Cybils pals) and move on to the next one. Of course I always read the last chapter (because I’m an ending freak), so I thought I’d spend maybe an hour with One Crazy Summer and move along to the next title on our massive 146 book list. Four hours later, while soaking in a nice warm bath, I found a tear rolling down my cheek as I closed the book on a historical time period I never thought I’d care to know much about.

I’m still not certain that I can appreciate the Black Panther movement of the 60’s, but I know that I can appreciate a protagonist with a voice so compelling I’m forced to read forward. That’s eleven-year-old Delphine, who, along with her two sisters, flies out to Oakland California to meet a woman she barely remembers when her father thinks it’s high time for his girls to get to know their mother. The three girl’s mother turns out to be a poet involved with the Black Panthers and she’s not much nicer than their paternal grandmother has told them. In fact, for all the character development of Delphine and her sisters, the author never got me to invest in their mother. Even as Delphine and her sister forgave their mother her faults, I muttered about a too tidy ending.

Could I ever invest in a character like Delphine’s mother? Could I feel some sympathy if the situation were extreme enough? Maybe author Williams-Garcia simply understood that most folks wouldn’t be shedding any of those tears for Delphine’s mother. I'm sure Ms. Williams-Garcia knew it was Delphine and the crazy summer she grew into a young lady of strength her mother could never have that makes One Crazy Summer an award-nomination worthy title.

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Genre: Historical Fiction
Age: 9 - 12
Pages: 224
Themes: Self-Reliance, Courage, Honor, Non-traditional Families, Black Panther Movement & Civil Rights Era
Character Traits: Excellent
Plot & Engagement: Good
Plausibility: Some loss at ending, but excellent for discussion
Awards: Nominated for 2010 National Book Award & 2010 Cybils
Publisher: Harper Collins Website Extras HERE
Date: January 2010
ISBN 0060760885
BUY One Crazy Summer HERE

 Great author video discussing her books with students at Vermont College of Fine Arts

By the time she was twelve, author Rita Williams-Garcia was already sending stories to magazines in hopes of publication. If she's not writing, she's daydreaming and plotting. You can read more about her on her website.

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