Publisher: Amistad, 2010
One of my challenges this year is to read some of the Newberry Award winners. In my experience, these stories, although written for children, are some of the best around. One of my favorites in this book, One Crazy Summer, a book I first read in 2 011 and reviewed on the now defunct Quirky Girls Read blog. I pulled it out for a quick re-read. Its just right for summer, although you’ll need a couple of tissues.
What the Story Is About:
It’s 1968 and eleven-year-old Dephine and her two younger sisters have been sent from their Brooklyn home to Oakland to visit a mother they basically don’t know. Their mother, Cecil, left them right after the youngest sister was born. But now their father believes it’s time for the girls to know their mother and vice versa.
When they arrive, it’s clear they are not welcome. It’s a good thing Delphine knows how to take care of herself and her sisters, because their mother has no intention of caring for them. When they complain of hunger, she sends them up the street for take-out Chinese food. In the morning she tells them to go to the People’s Center for breakfast. They are to stay there all day and join the Black Panther Day Camp.
Delphine had high hopes of getting to know this mother she barely remembers. But, within a few days, Delphine believes she’s just crazy. Cecil has changed her name and calls herself a poet. Gradually Dephine changes her mind about her being crazy. It’s not until the end of the story that Delphine, and the reader, get a glimpse into the background of Cecil.
The other thing Delphine learned was a first-hand education in black history, black pride, and specifically the Black Panther movement. It’s all seen through the eyes of a child. Don’t worry, it’s not a heavy handed political statement.
Delphine is the narrator of the story and the reader sees every thing through her eyes. She’s fair and understanding of her sisters and the other people she meets. She’s such a little adult that I wanted to step in and tell her to go play. She and her two sisters are so loveable you want to hug them and give them special treatment.
Don’t let the fact that the story was written for middle readers deter you from reading this story. It’s a sympathetic and honest look at life for a set of children in turbulent Oakland in 1968. Of course, if you have a young reader to read the story with, that’s even better. I strongly recommend the audiobook version. Sisi Aisha Johnson does a superb job reading the story with all the various voices.