Delphine narrates this moving, sweetly humorous story about the month she and her two younger sisters, Vonetta & Fern, travel to Oakland, CA from New York to be re-united with Cecile, the mother who had abandoned them. When the girls land in Atlanta Cecile seems none too happy to see them. There are no smiles or hugs. Cecile does not want to see her daughters; she did not request this visit. Within minutes of meeting the girls Cecile makes this very clear.
Like so many eldest siblings–especially those without a parent–Delphine has taken on much of the mother role with her sisters. She wants to be with her mother, receive some sign, some token of recognition, approval and acceptance from her as much as the two younger girls. But Delphine has also heard her paternal grandmother’s derogatory comments about Cecile and the way she ran off and left her family to fend for itself. Delphine’s concern is twofold: (1) how much of what Big Ma has said about Cecile is true; and (2) how to protect Vonetta and Fern from the pain of finding a mother who cannot (or will not) meet their hopes for and expectations of her.
And they are hurt–all of them to different degrees and in different ways. Cecile is a female black poet in the late 1960’s: compelled to write, to express her thoughts and feelings in written language. This need supersedes any maternal concern or affection for her children. Cecile’s involvement with the Black Panthers organization unavoidably seeps into her daughters’ lives as well. The girls are inundated with the good and the not-so-good, the honorable, the evil and the courage of those who chose to stand up for the equality of all people. One of my favorite parts is when the girls use the protest theories and tactics they have learned at “camp” to stage their own protest with Cecile.
The author Linda Sue Park says:
One Crazy Summer is a genuine rarity; a book that is both important in its contents and utterly engaging in its characters…with the tremendous bonus of being beautifully written.
I could not have said it better myself. Set against the racial upheaval of the late 1960’s One Crazy Summer is a great independent or read-aloud choice regardless of whether your motivation is simple enjoyment or the spurring of what is sometimes a difficult subject: racism.
An excellent candidate for this year’s Lovelace Award!
I just discovered there is a sequel to this wonderful book, called P.S. Be Eleven. It’s already on my library list for my next library excursion!