The Bottom Line
In One Crazy Summer, Delphine, who is 11, has been caring for her younger sisters since her mother left for California. When her father sends them to spend time with their mother, Delphine doesn’t expect much. Her mother’s involvement with the Black Panthers confuses Delphine, who has been raised by her father and old-fashioned grandmother. Their mother is absorbed in her poetry and is indifferent to her children. Eventually Delphine and her sisters come to terms with the life that their mother has chosen. Delphine’s wise and witty voice provides readers ages 10-14 with insight into a turbulent time in U.S. history.
- Strong, well-defined main characters
- Time and place well defined
- Insightful look into a little-studied movement in American history
- Humorous family incidents
- More information or explanation of Black Panther Movement needed
- May not appeal to some due to subject matter and character of the mother
- Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
- Length: 224 pages
- Recommended For: Ages 10 - 14
- Publisher: Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication Date: 2010
- ISBN: 9780060760885
- Formats: hardcover, e-book
Guide Review - One Crazy Summer
Rita Williams-Garcia does not shy away from controversial topics as evidenced in her novels, such as No Laughter Here and Jumped. In this novel about an African American family, written for middle-school age readers, she tackles the Black Panther movement in a sympathetic way. Through the main character, Delphine, we see parallels with the changes in America’s culture and way of life.
Raised by a traditional father and old-fashioned grandmother, Delphine and her sisters are thrust into the revolutionary thinking of the ‘60s when they visit their mother in Oakland, California. Delphine has vague memories of her mother, which is more than her sisters, Vonetta and Fern, have since their mother left shortly after Fern was born. Since that time, Delphine has felt responsible for her sisters and has shown maturity and dedication far beyond someone her age.
In Oakland, Delphine not only struggles to understand her mother, Cecile, but she also struggles to understand why the movement is important to Cecile and those around her. Cecile is distant and self-absorbed with little time or patience for her children so Delphine’s role as caretaker continues. Delphine’s sisters provide both comic relief and tender heartache for Delphine and the reader. And we see the beginnings of first “like” between a sympathetic boy and Delphine, which helps her see herself as an attractive person and not just a caretaker. This novel might not appeal to all ‘tweens and younger teens, but for those looking for a coming-of-age story set in the 60s, One Crazy Summer is a memorable read.