One Crazy Summer

Jul 22, 2012

I, for one, do not want to rant on and on about how good this book is. All I want is for you to go and...


Then, if you have the patience, come back and enjoy my book review. But maybe you just want to go and read a little bit first. And that's fine with me. (So long as you come back, of course :D )

For this post I have followed the very helpful book guide that you may find here. Whether you are a teacher or a student you may want to check it out.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Length: 215 pages
Genre: Children's Books, Young Adult

Age Level: Grades 4~7.

Started: 15 July 2012
Finished: 16 July 2012
Where did it come from? The local library
Why do I have it? Been wanting to read it for a long time, finally got around to it; it's a Newbery Book
Reading Challenges: Dream Big. READ
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary (Adapted from the book guide; link above) It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poetess who ran off years before and is living in Oakland. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that they won't be able to bother her. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way.

Thoughts: I thought it was kind of interesting how the statement that Delphine makes "I had managed to disgrace the entire Negro race, judging by the head shaking and tsk-tsking going on around us" could also have been made by a racist white person who took satisfaction in doing this kind of thing.

I think Cecile, who uses the pen name "Nzila," is actually a better person than she is a mother. Later, when her eldest child, Delphine, proves herself responsible enough (cooking, washing dishes, etc. by herself) she lets her operate her precious printing press, which she uses to print her poems. This proves she has a soft side. However, Cecile/Nzila can't tolerate noise or disturbances, especially when she is working, and often she can't be bothered with them. Therefore, her children think she is no kind of a mother, and their spending time together increases this belief.

Although this book describes the events of the Black Panther Party and the fight for justice, I feel that this book is just as much about gender as it is about race. Consider it: the four main characters are female. The absence of strong men does not bother me, but the absence of men in general bothers me slightly. One suggestion I have for the author is to change Sister Pat into Brother so-and-so, because except for Crazy Kelvin, I feel as if there are no men in the Black Panther Summer Camp at all.

Favorite passages & quotes: 

  • They call it littering when you carelessly drop things. They call the careless folks who drop things by a cute name: litterbug. There's nothing cute about dropping things carelessly. Dropping garbage and having puppies shouldn't be called the same thing. "Litter." I had a mind to write to Miss Webster about that. Puppies don't deserve to be called a litter like they had been dropped carelessly like garbage. And people who litter shouldn't be given a cute name for what they do. And at least the mother of a litter sticks around and nurses her pups no matter how sharp their teeth are. Merriam Webster was falling down on the job. How could she have gotten this wrong? (15)
  •  "We didn't come for the revolution. We came for breakfast" (88).
  • "And that’s why you’re like Cecile.  You want to be a fairy on TV more than you care how your kids will feel and if they miss you." (145)
  • We were now near the wharf. There were palm trees-- real palm trees with sturdy trunks. Down here, palm trees made sense. They stood as palm trees were supposed to stand. Reaching up to the sun, branches spread out wide. Not like a sickly child, too small and slouched over in someone's yard in black Oakland.(163)
  • We were a block away from the green stucco house, chatting and laughing. Then we stopped walking. All three of us. There were three police cars parked outside of Cecile's house. One in the driveway and two along the curb. Policemen lined the walk. Lights flashed on top of their cars onto the streets. Red, white and blue lights everywhere. We inched up, the happiness knocked out of us.(167)
Have a great day, and I hope you enjoy it!!!