Monday, July 9, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: One Crazy Summer

To find out more about Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, click here. 
TitleOne Crazy Summer
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia (link)
Genre:  Historical

Pub Date: January 2010

Synopsis Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.

First Line:  Good thing the plane had seat belts and  we'd been strapped in tight before takeoff. 

When I first read the premise of this story -- three sisters fly to Oakland in the summer of 1968 to visit their deadbeat mom -- it seemed like an interesting enough historical middle grade, a story that would definitely have heart and humor. But when I realized that the setting would also involve some of the racial politics of the 1960s and the Black Panthers, I was intrigued to see how those important adult storylines would be explored in a middle grade book. 

Getting to Know the Black Panthers: Williams-Garcia weaves history into this story in a magical way. Both the setting and characters have such vivid personalities, you become transported to Oakland from a very different time. It won't really matter if kids are familiar with the history of the Panthers, who are introduced from a variety of angles. Through the lens of Delphine, the story's narrator, readers are given a measured and cautious glimpse into this world that isn't so much political as it is personal. But while the setting makes the book dynamic, in the end, it's not the central focus of One Crazy Summer. As the title suggests, the story is about a pretty nutty vacation where three sisters learn about each other and their family dynamic .

Why You'll Love Delphine: As an older sister, Delphine's main concern throughout the story is minding Fern and Vonetta. Even though the siblings have been tossed into a world with no parental supervision and all the Chinese take-out they've ever wanted, this eleven-year-old fights to keep a normal, healthy routine for her family. Her maturity is both heartbreaking and beautiful. 

Want to find more marvelous middle grade books? Here's a list of MMGM bloggers with more recommendations!


  1. This is a great story about sisters! Thanks for reminding me.

  2. That must be the paperback cover! I adore it. Very different from what I remember the hardcover cover looking like.

    I love when books weave history with a fictional story. This is an excellent book on MANY levels.

  3. I really want to read this one! My dad was involved in the Black Panthers in Harlem in 1969 so it'd be cool to read a novel involving some of that history. :)

  4. Gina, I couldn't get into One Crazy Summer, but my daughter, who was eleven at the time, LOVED it. So I guess the author did her job and reached her target audience. :)

  5. This has been on my TBR list for a while. Is this a new cover though? I love it!

  6. Oooo, I loved this book! The relationship between the three sisters was wonderful -- the way they finish each other's sentences, for instance. And yes, Delphine was terrific.

  7. Books like this make me wish I had a sister!

  8. This cover really caught my eye in the Scholastic Book Order a few months ago. It's sitting in a pile to be labeled for my classroom library. Looks like I should give it another peek! :)

  9. I loved this book! Rita Williams-Garcia spoke to me and a group via Skype at a local SCBWI event I attended awhile ago, and she was great.

  10. I saw this book recently and it sounded interesting. I didn't get it- but now that I have read your review I will pick it up the next time I see it. It sounds fantastic!