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Monday, November 26, 2012

Award-Winning MG Novel Long on Personality, Short on Plot

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Other New Yorkers might be excited about spending a summer in sunny California—not 11-year-old Delphine Gaither.  She'd rather stay home in Brooklyn with her father and Big Ma.  Delphine hardly knows the mother who abandoned her four years ago; she can't fathom why she's being forced to spend a whole summer with the woman.  At least she'll have her little sisters for company.  Except the combined forces of 7-year-old Fern and 9-year-old Vonetta are enough to make even sane people crazy—and, as far as Delphine remembers, her mom's already a little loopy.  Maybe more than a little.

It's clear from the get-go that Cecile Johnson has no interest in getting to know her daughters.  She doesn't play with them, cook for them, talk to them or care a whit about what they do all day.  Finding their way in this strange, new world is hard enough—how are Delphine and her sisters supposed to get their mother's attention?  And what is Cecile up to anyway?  There's got to be a reason she's hiding from the Black Panthers.  As the summer rolls on, Delphine will make discoveries that will change what she knows about her family and, more importantly, about herself.

One Crazy Summer, an award-winning middle grade novel by Rita Williams-Garcia, is difficult to describe because, although it's long on personality, it's a little short on plot.  The story, which takes place in 1968, talks about racism, revolution, and civil rights, although its real focus is on family.  Delphine, Fern and Vonetta are a formidable trio—they're sympathetic, funny, and lovable.  Sisters in every sense of the word.  Although I wasn't as swept away by this story as I wanted to be, I did love the Gaither girls.  My favorite part of this book may, in fact, be the cover (of the paperback version).  Illustrated by the enormously talented Frank Morrison, it bring the sisters to vivid life, perfectly capturing the spunk that makes them the best and most memorable part of One Crazy Summer.   

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for subject matter that may be disturbing to younger readers (racism, parental abandonment/neglect, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of One Crazy Summer from the Scholastic book fair at my kids' elementary school with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha. 


  1. This one sounds pretty good. I don't mind a slow plot if a book has great characters, and it sounds like this one does. Great review!

    1. It does. I just wanted more from the plot, you know?

  2. I read this a couple of years ago and I remember absolutely loving it. It made my "Best of" list. Maybe I should go back and reread!


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