Ages: 9-12
Outstanding Book

Merrimon Book Reviews

Malcolm X

Muhammad Ali
(born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.)

This image is a faithful digitisation of a unique historic image, and the copyright for it is most likely held by the person who created the image or the agency employing the person. It is believed that the use of this image may qualify as fair use under United States copyright law.
Huey P. Newton, Alameda County Court House Jail, Oakland, September 26, 1968
Huey P. Newton was the founder, leader, and chief theoretician of the Black Panther Party

From Merrimon Book Reviews
One Crazy Summer
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
by Rita Williams-Garcia

In 1968, the world is in the midst of a great change.  In April, Martin Luther King. Jr. is assassinated, and President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act.  The Black Panthers organize to promote Black Power in Oakland.  All the news reports and history books rarely talk about the silent witnesses to these great societal changes.  Who were the children?  How did history change their lives?  

In the summer of 1968, eleven year old Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, take a plane from Brooklyn to visit their mother Cecile in Oakland, California.  Her father and Big Ma don't exactly approve of crazy Cecile, but keeping the children from their mother forever is not the solution either.  As every good sister does, Delphine takes care of her younger sisters, especially now on this new journey and under instructions from her family to do so.  Cecile isn't exactly a fairy tale mother.  Rather than cook homemade meals, she gives them money to buy Chinese take-out.  Cecile's kitchen is off limits.  Strange men in Afros and black berets knock on her door demanding her assistance.  Cecile sends her three daughters to a summer camp headed by the revolutionary Black Panthers.  Delphine's summer in Oakland isn't exactly the kind of experience her teachers back home would expect in a "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay!

In ONE CRAZY SUMMER, readers see the historical changes through the eyes of Delphine.  With humor, honesty, and innocence, Delphine comments on the events unfolding before her in the way only a child can.  Delphine is quite conscious of the differences between blacks and whites in society, yet she is also a girl who responds from her heart rather than from slogans or mandates from others.  Delphine is intelligent, taking the initiative to educate herself and to protect her sisters, yet she is still a little girl who longs for a mother to protect her.  In ONE CRAZY SUMMER, Delphine embarks on a journey that will change her forever, not only in the societal changes she witnesses but also a journey that will bring her closer to understanding her mother and herself.

ONE CRAZY SUMMER takes a reader into the heart of history through the eyes of a child.  What better way to tell the story to young readers?  Delphine's voice sees what history books do not.  Through Delphine's eyes, Rita Williams-Garcia gives life to memorable characters who inspire the imagination.  Delphine's innocence and intelligence pinpoint the essentials in a way a self-conscious adult does not.  Her humor brings a delightful, refreshing view of the world before her, a view that tempers some of the tragic events that accompany the struggles of this era.  No matter what one's age, young reader, young adult or adult, ONE CRAZY SUMMER leaves a reader with the wonderful lasting and speechless satisfaction of entering a world created by a master storyteller.  In addition to young readers, ONE CRAZY SUMMER is very highly recommended to all those adults, white and black,  who like Delphine and this reader, witnessed the unfolding of the Civil Rights Movement in their hometowns.  Quite simply, no other story has spoken to me, or the child that I was back then, as does this novel.  ONE CRAZY SUMMER gives voice to all those things seen, all those emotions, which often remain unspoken to others decades later.  When I reached the last line of the author's notes, a tear of joy filled my eye from the thankfulness that Rita Williams-Garcia put this story in words.  ONE CRAZY SUMMER is an outstanding book, a book this reader expects to win several awards. 

Publisher: Amistad (January 26, 2010)
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Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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