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One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters #1)

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  14,572 ratings  ·  2,174 reviews
Winner of the 2011 Coretta Scott King Author Award

A 2011 Newbery Honor Book

Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will

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Paperback, First Paperback Edition, 240 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Amistad (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Wilhelmina Jenkins
I do not ordinarily read middle-grade books unless I am sharing them with my grandson, but I was drawn to this beautiful book initially because of its subject matter - children in Oakland during the early days of the Black Panther Party. But this book is so much more than its historical setting. I fell head-over-heels in love with the narrator of this book, Delphine, and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. With a group here on Goodreads, I recently reread the wonderful short story collection ...more
Ivonne Rovira
Jun 12, 2014 Ivonne Rovira rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ivonne by: Amazon
It’s 1968, and 11-year-old Delphine Gaither has her hands full playing mother to her two little sisters, 9-year-old Vonetta, and 7-year-old Fern. She lives in Brooklyn with her father and his prim, old-fashioned mother, called Big Ma. Where’s the girls’ mother? Cecile Johnson abandoned the family before Delphine turned 5. Now Pa thinks the three Gaither girls should spend a month this summer with their long-lost mother in Oakland, California. And it will be one crazy summer.

You see, Cecile, now
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Betsy
When I heard that teen author Rita Williams-Garcia had written a middle grade novel for kids I wasn't moved one way or another. I don't read teen books. Couldn't say I knew much of the woman's work. When I heard that her book was about the Black Panthers, however, my interest was piqued. Black Panthers, eh? The one political group so difficult to write about that you can't find them in a single children's book (aside from The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, of course). So what was her take? ...more
Afton Nelson
Important topic? Yes
Writing? Fabulous
Characters? Engaging
Newbery material? Well, I suppose since adults are the ones to vote, then yes. Probably. But if kids were voting, I'm not sure this book would make the Newbery radar. I started reading it to my kids and ended up finishing it myself. Normally when kids have an awful, self-centered mother or parent figure in children's literature, there is a candy house or 7 little men to make up for it. Not so in this book. Cecile never seemed to come aroun
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Beth Knight
This is one of those "one more chapter and then I'l...(clean the kitchen, throw some clothes in the washer, take a shower, etc...)" kind of books. I loved it. I think Rita Williams-Garcia is a fantastic writer and she derserves all the awards and honors she got for this book. This is the first book of hers book I've read but it won't be the last. The story is fascinating (3 girls travel to California during the summer of 1968 to stay with the mother who abandoned them years before) and the setti ...more
Hallie
This was so great - it's going on to the (virtual) shelf of MG books that present difficult, even painful family dynamics with a light and humorous touch. Delphine is wonderful, and the time and place beautifully depicted. It was also great to learn about the type of summer camp the Black Panthers ran in many communities. I especially loved the way we see Delphine finally able to voice her anger at her mother for leaving, and know that's not the end of it. Just one small quote:
I wouldn't be exa
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Raina
Delphine is growing up under tough circumstances. She is the de facto leader of her little family. Her sisters look up to her. Her mom left the family years ago, but now Delphine and her sisters are going to stay with her for the summer.

I kind of loved the depiction of this very nontraditional mother. Delphine's mom is politically active, professional, creative, stylish, and not particularly interested in her children. The neglect is awful, of course, but I think it's healthy to see moms who do
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Laura
Maybe 2 1/2 stars because I really liked the relationship between the three sisters. The book takes place in 1968 and three sisters are sent from Brooklyn, NY to Oakland, CA to stay with their mother, who left when they were babies. Their mother doesn't want them there, so I can't imagine why their father thought this was a good idea. She's a bad mother. That's it. No redeeming qualities at all (unless you count that she's a poet who cares more about her poetry than anyone around her... and tell ...more
Robin
I have mixed feelings about this book. It does several things successfully: Sister relationships, kids who have to take on extra responsibility at a young age, homeless teens, and political action in America in the 1960s. And all within a palatable mid-elementary storyline. I worry, though, that kids far removed from that time and place will somehow get the picture that the black panthers condoned abandoning your children. The panther characters in this book seem angry, dogmatic, and tone-deaf t ...more
Mary Ronan Drew
Jan 07, 2011 Mary Ronan Drew rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Absolutely no one.
Shelves: library-book
This book is a dramatic revisionist history of the Black Panther Party. The book is not particularly well written and most of the "facts" are incorrect. There is a sudden, sentimental, and entirely unbelievable character change at the end. Serious, hard-working and loving characters are disparaged. A mother who abandoned her husband and three children to become a poet and find herself is presented positively.

I read this children's book as a potential Newbery winner. I think, unfortunately, it ma
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Saejean
This book has one of the rarest characters in literature, especially among children's stories: Cecile, self-named Nzilla, is a poet, an artist, a printer, a Black Panther, and a "crazy" mother who abandoned her three children.

I personally loved this book. Delphine is easy to empathize with, through her confusions and her pride. Nzilla is a beautiful artist that refuses to play by the rules called out for her, and instead transforms herself to become who she wills herself to be. The writing is r
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Lisa Vegan
Nov 30, 2010 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kids who enjoy historical fiction stories & stories with a girl narrator
Wow, what a trip, as we used to say back in ’68. Did this ever bring me back to the summer of 1968! I was not an African-American eleven year old girl visiting Oakland, but I was a fourteen year old white Jewish girl across the bay living in San Francisco. There was a chapter that takes place in San Francisco.

So, the author got one thing wrong about Oakland (no, there are no hills at all in that part of town) and maybe one thing about San Francisco wrong: I don’t think there were palm trees in t
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Nnedi
loved it. fun read and perfect for young girls and boys. i wish i had this kind of book when i was a kid. but i'm content knowing that my daughter does. by the end, as an adult reader, i had the warm fuzzies.
R.J.
I've heard so many wonderful things about this book since it won the Newbery Honor, I'm embarrassed to admit it's taken me this long to read it. However, as I'd avoided any reviews that seemed spoilery I had no clear idea of what the story was about, except for the story of three sisters growing up in the 1960's and having some sort of summer adventure.

In short, I had no idea what a fascinating, surprising, soul-searching story was ahead of me, and I'm even more happy now that I went in unspoile
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Laura
Delphine(11), Vonetta(9), and Fern(7) are sent to spend a month in the summer with their mother, Cecile, who abandoned them when Fern was just an infant. Delphine is in charge of herding the girls across country from Brooklyn to Oakland and making sure the younger sisters behave and don’t act like a “big Negro spectacle”. Upon arrival Cecile immediately lets the girls know that she doesn’t want them there and that they better not bother her peace and quiet. Instead of spending time with them, sh ...more
Sarah BT
I really fell hard for this book-I reviewed it for TeensReadToo.com and it recieve a Gold Star award from me-I loved it that much. It’s hard to express how wonderful this book is and how much I adored it. I was pretty sure I would enjoy since I had been hearing a positive buzz around this book. But I was completely unexpected for how much this book would pull me in and not let go-I couldn’t put it down.

This is a quiet book. It’s not an action filled book, and there wasn’t any suspense that made
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Marjorie Ingall
This didn't just blow my socks off; it blew them through space and time. This book was a TOTAL SOCK-OBLITERATING EXPERIENCE.

11-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters are sent to Oakland from Brooklyn for a month during the summer of 1968 to meet their mother, Cecile, who walked out when the youngest was a newborn. Turns out Cecile, who now goes by Nzila, wants nothing to do with her daughters (who live with their dad and grandmother) -- she's now a poet and an associate of the Black Panth
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Michael
Despite taking place in the context of a dysfunctional family in the volatile and violent Civil Rights era of the late 1960's, this was actually a sweet, almost sentimental tale, wrapped in tender care for its young African American protagonists as they try to make their way in a confusing world. And a confusing world it is: their mother left them when they were all under four years old, and they are visiting her for the first time in Oakland, CA, during the summer of 1968, right after Martin Lu ...more
Megan
Audience: Intermediate
Genre: Historical Fiction

Discussion Questions:
Remembering: What are the names of the three sisters traveling to meet their mother for the first time?
Understanding: While the girls were waiting in the airport for their plane to leave for Oakland, what is meant by "There weren't too many of "us" in the waiting area, and too many of "them" were staring."?
Applying: What questions would you want to ask your mother if you were just meeting her for the first time?
Analyzing: What
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Jessica
Simply wonderful. A truly beautiful book, and sadly, the issues of racism, poverty, and inequality are still current. An important book that I will be having my 10yo read next so that we can discuss it.
Emily Kimball
Beautiful story about the complexities of sisterhood and motherhood. Also, I truly appreciated what I learned from this narrator's perspective as a little black girl in the 1960s. As much as I want to think I'm open-minded, I still grew up as a white kid in a white, middle class suburb. As an adult, I'm only beginning to scratch the surface of how this environment nurtured or didn't nurture different values in me and the rest of our community.

There are a lot of children's books I've read with t
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Emily  Nuttall
One Crazy Summer is a story narrated by 11 year old Delphine as her and her sisters, Vonetta (9years old) and Fern (7years old), spend the summer with their mother, who left the siblings to live with their father in grandmother in Brooklyn when Fern was a baby. The story takes place in Oakland, during the rise of the Black Panther movement. While living with their mother, who seems to not want them around, Delphine and her sisters spend their summer days at a camp ran by the Black Panthers. Delp ...more
Jennifer
When Rita Williams-Garcia visited the Tween Media Literacy class I co-taught this past fall as a guest speaker, she dubbed her latest effort "The Penderwicks meets The Black Panthers," and I can't think of a more apt description than that!

The world of 1960's activism and the Black Power movement is seen through the eyes of eleven-year-old Delphine, who, along with her two younger sisters, are visiting their mother for the first time in the summer of 1968. Cecile abandoned the family when the gi
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Eva Mitnick
There's something so refreshing to me about books in which the parents aren't perfect, earnest, cookie-cutter, or generic. Often in children's books, the parents are by far the least interesting characters, which is just not right considering the huge importance parents have in a child's life. And even though children may often take their parents for granted, that doesn't mean the reader must.

In One Crazy Summer, 11-year-old Delphine sure doesn't take her mom for granted. Cecile left Delphine, h
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Nina
I have one major quibble with this book and am trying to figure out how much it really matters. The geography is off. There is a Magnolia street in Oakland, but there is no Orchard (they walk to Orchard, past the library, to find the Center). There was in the 1800s, but it was changed at the turn of the century to 30th street (which was near a library in 1968). I'm suspecting that Williams-Garcia got old info. Also, and to me more importantly: there's no hills in this part of Oakland. Wherever i ...more
Abby Johnson
It's the summer of 1968 and Delphine and her two younger sisters are going across the country to California to spend the summer with their mother who left when Delphine was five years old. Who is this strange woman who writes poetry, allows no one in her kitchen, and sends them to the Black Panther summer day camp to get them out of her hair?

A great historical novel makes the reader feel like she's there and One Crazy Summer did that for me. I drank in all the details of 1968 Oakland. But, I dun
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Emily
Audience: Intermediate
Genre: Historical fiction
Discussion Questions: Remembering: Say the name that Fern's mother called her. Understanding: Explain why the story has the title that it does. Applying: Think of a situation in the story(for example, when the girls saw their mother being arrested with the two Black Panthers or when they were in San Francisco) and tell what you would have done. Analyzing: What is the relationship between Delphine and her mother? Evaluating: What is your opinion Nzil
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Rebecca
I can't even begin to state all the emotion this book brought out in me. An INTENSE BOOK and AMAZING book about 3 beautiful girls and their visit of their mother during a Black Panther Summer Camp. Delphine is the kind of girl that young people today need to be today, to rise up like Delphine did. At 11 she is asked to do more than I ever could image and yet she never complains shrinks from her responsibility. This book blew my mind. You will find a lesson to be learned or something to consider ...more
Tricia Douglas
This was Rita Williams-Garcia's first book with these characters. I was lucky enough to meet her and listen to her speak. She was phenomenal! This was an interesting story, dealing with a famous time period (1968) in Oakland, CA. Three young Black girls have flown from NY to meet their mother who abandoned them seven years earlier. Cecile, their mom, wants nothing to do with them and sticks them in a daycare center for the month they are there. Here the girls learn about the Black Panthers, civi ...more
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"I was born in Queens, N.Y, on April 13, 1957. My mother, Miss Essie, named me 'NoMo' immediately after my birth. Although I was her last child, I took my time making my appearance. I like to believe I was dreaming up a good story and wouldn’t budge until I was finished. Even now, my daughters call me 'Pokey Mom', because I slow poke around when they want to go-go-go.

"I learned to read early, and
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More about Rita Williams-Garcia...

Other Books in the Series

Gaither Sisters (3 books)
  • P.S. Be Eleven (Gaither Sisters, #2)
  • Gone Crazy in Alabama (Gaither Sisters, #3)
P.S. Be Eleven (Gaither Sisters, #2) Like Sisters on the Homefront Jumped Gone Crazy in Alabama (Gaither Sisters, #3) No Laughter Here

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“We all have our la-la-la song. The thing we do when the world isn't singing a nice tune to us. We sing our own nice tune to drown out ugly.” 18 likes
“It was a strange, wonderful feeling. To discover eyes upon you when you expected no one to notice you at all.” 16 likes
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