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