Historical Fiction: One Crazy Summer

1 Aug




Garcia, Rita. One crazy summer .New York: Amistad, 2010.


Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are sent on a plane from their home inBrooklynto visitOakland,Californiaand the mother that abandoned them with their father when Fern was only an infant.  This story is the journey of three girls, desperately wanting to make a connection with a mother that disowns them.  The girls are mostly left to fend for themselves, picking up Chinese take out and going to the Black Panther Community Center for food and companionship.  For the next twenty eight days the girls try to connect with Cecile (their mother) with very little progress.  They find food, companionship and lessons with the Black Panthers and learn more about their mother through her involvement with them.  By the end of their stay, the girls do get some recognition from their mother and “one crazy summer,” with the Black Panthers that they will remember forever.


One Crazy Summer has received numerous awards including the Coretta Scott King Award, recognition as a Newbery Honor Book and the Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction.  A quick Google search reveals rave reviews amongst numerous notable publications.


While the themes of family sticking together (the three children) and innocence of children in comparison to highly political Black Panthers are good themes and educational, I had an extremely difficult time getting through this book.  I began with the audio version and then switched to reading the text myself to see if the audio was distracting from the writing.  The first half of the book is mostly anti-climactic with the children co-existing with a mother that disowns them.  The story becomes a little more interesting towards the middle as the children become more involved with the Black Panthers but even still it is not enough to make up for the extremely slow start.  I found the ending to be extremely disappointing as there is no real resolution with their mother other than a brief conversation and finally calling the children by their names.


Nonetheless the book has received numerous positive reviews. I can only speculate that my disappointment resides with my lack of knowledge about the Black Panther movement or sensitivity towards mothers that abandoned their children.  This was also the last in my collection of historical readings for this genre and I may have been spoiled by the previous reads that I found much more captivating.


“Delphine is the pitch-perfect older sister, wise beyond her years, an expert at handling her siblings…while the girls are caught up in the difficulties of adults, their resilience is celebrated and energetically told with writing that snaps off the page” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The setting and time period are as vividly realized as the characters, and readers will want to know more about Delphine and her sisters after they return to Brooklyn…” —Horn Book, starred review

“Regimented, responsible, strong-willed Delphine narrates in an unforgettable voice, but each of the sisters emerges as a distinct, memorable character, whose hard-won, tenuous connections with their mother build to an aching, triumphant conclusion.” –Booklist, starred review

“Delphine’s growing awareness of injustice on a personal and universal level is smoothly woven into the story in poetic language that will stimulate and move readers.” —Publishers Weekly

“Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading.” —School Library Journal, starred review




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