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One Crazy Summer

by Rita Williams-Garcia

Published by Amistad / HarperCollins, 2010
218 pages
ISBN: 978-0060760885

Ages 8-12

Eleven-year-old Delphine has never thought much about Cecile, the mother who left when she was four, except for an occasional vague longing and a few flashes of memory. When her dad sends Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, to Oakland, California, during the summer of 1968 so they can get to know their mother, Delphine has low expectations. That’s a good thing, since Cecile seems to resent their very existence. Known in the Black community as Nzila, Cecile is a poet. She keeps a printing press in the kitchen and needs time and space uninterrupted by boisterous children so she can write and print her work. She sends the girls off each morning to the Black Panthers’ free breakfast program and a day of children’s programming at the Panthers’ community center. Delphine is initially resistant to the political indoctrination they get from the Black Panthers, especially from Crazy Kelvin, the vocal Black Separatist with the gigantic afro, who immediately criticizes Fern for carrying around her white baby doll, Miss Patty Cake. But gradually Delphine begins to see that the women who run the camp are kind and caring, and the things she’s learning about political process and revolution come in handy when she decides to start standing up to Cecile. Rita Williams-Garcia’s fresh, funny novel resonates with depth and meaning that comes through the brilliant characterizations, sparkling dialogue, and a stunningly realistic recreation of a time and place in a story that concludes with a surprising, yet wholly satisfying resolution. She’s created a small masterpiece of a middle-grade novel that will have broad child appeal. (KTH) ©2010 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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