Tag Archives: honors: National Book Award Finalist

One Crazy Summer Review

one_crazy_summerOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Amistad, 2010. 978-0060760885

Winner of the 2011 Coretta Scott King Book Award; 2011 John Newbery Honor Book

Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. When they arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I picked up a copy of P.S. Be Eleven, realized it was a sequel to this book, and thought it would be prudent to read Summer before Eleven.

Why I finished it: This is a really wonderful piece of historical fiction that explores the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s through the eyes of children. So many accounts have been written from an adult point of view that it’s hard to remember that there were children that were also part of the movement and bore witness to an important part of American history. Delphine is a very mature eleven-year-old, taking care of her sisters and looking out for them, wary about the necessity of visiting her mother. The girls quickly find themselves out of their element and begin to realize just how sheltered their life is in Brooklyn. But even if their mother keeps them at arm’s length, the girls find friendship among the other attendees of the Black Panther day camp. Delphine is a likable narrator and the reader is instantly drawn into her world. We identify with her struggle to keep track of her sisters, her desire to be close to her mother, her confusion at how she fits in with the Black Panthers. In many ways, she is much older than her eleven years, something that comes out more and more as the story progresses. Garcia-Williams has written a moving story about how we relate to our family and how we relate ourselves to current events. It encourages us to take our own actions and consider what we can contribute to the world, whether it be through words or through actions.

Other related materials: P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia; Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai; Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson; The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis; Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis; Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor; President of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston; Keena Ford books by Melissa Thomson; Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


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Story of a Girl: A Novel review

Story of a Girl: A Novel by Sara Zarr

Little Brown, 2007. 978-0-316-01453-3

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Deanna was caught by her father having sex with her brother’s friend Tommy in the back of a car and three years later, Deanna is still trying to figure out what happened. Her father will barely look at her, her mother wants to believe that everything will magically be okay, her brother and his girlfriend have to deal with being teenage parents, Tommy leers at her when he sees her, and she is batting conflicting feelings for her friend Jason. Having sex with a then high school senior has marked Deanna as a whore and a slut (among other things), but doesn’t want that one event to define who she is or who she wants to become. Her only outlet is a journal in which she writes a story of a girl on the waves, whose situation mirrors her own.

Why I picked it up: It was featured in a blog post talking about books with characters in situations that place them outside the “artificial world where parents work for unnamed people at unnamed jobs yet either receive masses of money, or conversely can’t get jobs at all”.

Why I finished it: The story is fast-paced and draws the reader in within the first few pages which describes the night that Deanna was caught by her father in the back of Tommy’s car. As a narrator, Deanna is easy to relate to, even if we are not in her same shoes: struggling with a sense of identity after making what turns out to be a life-altering mistake seems to be the over-arching theme throughout the book. This is something that not only Deanna is struggling with, but her brother as well, who is living in their parents basement with his girlfriend and their baby daughter. The interpersonal and familial relationships are artfully shown as both the cause and effect for Deanna’s actions as she goes through her summer trying to find a way to deal with if not completely erase this image that has been created of her by her peers and her parents. I found the climactic episode with Jason to be a little bit predictable, and the story dramatically slows at the end as the summer draws to a close, making it harder to stay focused. However, the book is realistic in its portrayal of socioeconomic situations and consequences for one’s actions, which I found eye-opening and refreshing in a literary world where things often need to have a neat ending in order to be satisfying – but it is definitely more for older teens.

Other related materials: Hate List: A Novel by Jennifer Brown; Before I Die by Jenny Downham; Snitch by Allison van Diepen; Sweethearts by Sara Zarr; Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers; Season of Ice by Diane les Bequets; Manstealing for Fat Girls by Michelle Embree; Funny How Things Change by Mellisa Wyatt; Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt; Forever… by Judy Blume

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