Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review -- One Crazy Summer

One Crazy Summer One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not since the March sisters have I enjoyed a set of siblings as much as I did Delphine, Vonetta and Fern in Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer.

Delphine is in charge of caring for her younger siblings as they travel across the country to visit their mother, Cecile, who abandoned them when Fern (the youngest) was an infant. Dreaming that their trip to California will be full of movie stars and trips to Disneyland, the girls are rudely awakened when their mother wants nothing to do with them and turns them loose to fend for themselves. Instead of a magical reunion, the sisters spend their days at the Black Panther summer camp where they are “taught” and fed for 4 weeks. When their Mother and two Black Panther militants are arrested, the girls truly learn about their mother and why she left so many years ago.

This was an absolutely delightful book. The dynamics between the sisters and the “rolls” they play were entertaining and complicated: Delphine – mother hen and mature beyond her 11 years, yearns for friends and childhood experiences; Vonetta is the attention seeker and the attentions he seeks often brings discord; and “Little Girl” Fern who can’t go anywhere without her Miss Patty Cake doll (who is a character in and of itself) but wants to be grown up too. Not having sisters myself, I’m unsure how sisters interact, but Ms. Williams-Garcia convinced me that all sisters are equally amusing, complex, argumentative and joyful as these three.

With their Mother’s self imposed absence, the girls must create a community with the teachers and other children at summer camp. They experience firsthand the racial tension and conflict of 60s. They are truly cared for by this “village” of people while on their 4 week vacation. Finally, with their “dream vacation” about to end, the girls and their Mother begin to learn and understand more fully what it’s like to be mother and daughters.

One Crazy Summer will light up your heart and make you want to squeeze your kids just that much tighter.

Book source: Public library

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