Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 12, 2010

What I’m Reading: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Most of the novels I read for children these days are those on my syllabus, most written at least twenty years ago and more likely longer. I don’t tend to read many novels set in 1968, and this may be the first for children that takes place in Oakland, California that year, and in which minor characters include Black Panthers. I picked up the book because of glowing reviews, and I’m going to add my own. I only wish the novel had a different title, since to me it suggests something madcap. And while there’s humor and some living on an edge, to me “crazy” doesn’t sum up or suggest the tone of this thought-provoking novel by Rita Williams-Garcia, who’s written six novels for young adults. Okay, let’s just turn to the first page.

Eleven-year-old Delphine, first person narrator, has taken charge of her two little sisters since her mother left them and the Bronx seven years ago. She gets help from her father, who seems kind, though we don’t see him much, and her grandmother, who seems to have inspired Delphine’s own confident voice. She’s called Big Ma and we get to know her through short but complete reports, such as how she reads Scripture daily, but where the girls’ mother was concerned, Big Ma has judgment but not forgiveness. And “She calls the airport by its old name, Idlewild. Don’t get me wrong. Big Ma was as mad and sad as anyone when they killed the president. It’s change she has no pity on. However things are stamped in Big Ma’s mind is how they will be, now and forever. Idlewild will never be JFK. Cassius Clay will never be Muhammed Ali.”

I was sad to leave this woman behind, although I enjoyed the plane trip the three sisters took to Oakland to meet their mother. She made me gasp. Okay, so there’s some of Big Ma’s judgment in me, too. I had to remind myself I choked like that over the mom in Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming, which became one of my all-time favorite novels. So I kept reading, and found not a wonderful but unbelievable spin, but some redemption in one of the best hugs you might ever hope to read.



  1. I really loved this book – and yes, that hug..

  2. Ooo. This is one I’d love to read, too (I just finished LOVE, AUBREY, an MG novel — heartbreakingly beautiful). I’ll have to check this one out. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Heart breakingly beautiful sounds good. I’ll check out Love, Aubrey, which I know I’ve heard of before but haven’t gotten to. Glad to swap book lists!

  4. That voice and that hug, amazing.

  5. Sounds good. Thanks for the review.

  6. Thank you for reading! There’s not much more fun than recommending books, is there?

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