One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

48952772Cindy: One Crazy Summer is not only a description of the months ahead in the Dobrez household with a daughter fresh home from her first year of college and another graduating high school in a month. One Crazy Summer (Harper/Amistad, 2010) is the new middle grade book from Rita Williams-Garcia, who usually writes for older teens. I’ve long been a fan of her work, but this book is something special. Delphine’s story of four weeks with her younger sisters in Oakland, CA visiting their estranged mother who “did not ask for them to come, surely didn’t,” is heartbreaking and delightful all in one. How could she not hug them at the airport? How could she not fix them dinner after their long flight? There’s much they don’t understand about their poet mother but slowly, over the passing days they gather a few clues to their mother’s behavior. The 1968 setting is pitch perfect. Adults who remember this tumultuous time will enjoy reading this story along with children. It will start great discussions. Poetry, too. Did I mention there’s poetry? And political protest? The only problem–the cover art is great, but where will they put all the award stickers I hope to see on this in January 2011?

Lynn: I am in complete agreement with Cindy on this amazing book. In fact (ahem) I’ve been recommending it to her for weeks. Not to rub it in or anything but I told her she’d love this book. I defy ANYONE to read this book and not want to scoop up Delphine and Fern and take them home for a good home-cooked dinner and a hug! And as for the sticker placement – I too think the publisher may need to re-design the cover to make room.

If you ever wanted a textbook illustration for the term “nuanced” this book is it. What a challenge Rita Williams-Garcia set herself with Cecile! With total nuanced artistry, Cecile – and all the characters – are revealed gradually until we begin to really know them. I will never like Cecile or like her treatment of her daughters but I think I am beginning to understand her. There is such richness in this book. I felt as if I fell into history as I read and the characters are so well-realized that I felt as if I fell into their lives too. As readers we are shown these characters and we learn to know them as each masterfully chosen detail builds up a sense of the whole – complex, fully developed and – well, nuanced. I’m telling you, people, you will love this book!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

4 Comments on "One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia"

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  1. I reviewed this one yesterday in my Tween Tuesday spotlight on my blog and I too gave it a glowing review! I’m with you on the award stickers-this one better be decorated come January! The characters were beautifully written and I fell in love with Delphine who is such a great narrator. You’re right Lynn-this book is well nuanced and works well for so many ages, not just MG.

  2. Wow this book looks amazing too. Do we have it at MB or HL?

  3.' julia says:

    i think that it is a really good book i got it from my school library. I lost the book right when i was reading the middle of it. I had it in school and i don’t know what happened to it. I really loved the parts that i got to read thought. Thanks for writing it

  4.' MM says:

    I though this novel was a wonderful period piece. However, I found the characters to be (in contrast with what others on this site have said) slightly unrealistic. Yes, Delphine is a wise-beyond-her-years 11-year-old with much responsibility. But she has virtually no fault, very few weaknesses in the novel. A child whom adults actually respect (Pa and Big Ma)? I think not. A perfectly disciplined 11-year-old who never needs redirection or misbehaves? Doubtful. This makes Delphine a bit too unrealistic (and also slightly annoying) to me. Vonetta is a vapid and static character. And I felt that Williams-Garcia was trying to redeem Cecile to some extent in the novel’s second half. Redeem the woman who could hardly be bothered to pick up her daughters from the airport, sends three underaged girls to pick up food for HER in a dark 1960s Oakland neighborhood, not to mention abandoned the girls early in life. Cecile even dares to insult the woman who DID raise the girls. However old-fashioned Big Ma may be, at least she stayed around. Cecile did nothing but abandon the girls once and endanger them the entire time they were in Oakland. She doesn’t deserve to be redeemed, and the novel’s attempt to do so is weak, ineffective, and invalidates the novel’s inherent claim that Cecile is who she is and cannot be changed. Overall, not a particularly satisfying read for me as an editor for an educational publisher that deals in young adult literature daily.

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