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One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters, #1)
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One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters #1)

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  11,548 ratings  ·  1,845 reviews
In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer ca...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 26th 2010 by Amistad (first published 2010)
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Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsOut of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-GarciaCountdown by Deborah WilesMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Newbery 2011
3rd out of 147 books — 488 voters
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperFinally by Wendy MassMockingbird by Kathryn ErskineCountdown by Deborah WilesBecause of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
Mock Newbery 2010/2011
6th out of 82 books — 192 voters

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Community Reviews

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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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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 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...more
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...more
Lisa Vegan
Nov 30, 2010 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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...more
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.
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
Connection: (text to text) When Cecile tells Delphine about her own childhood at the end of the book, it helps Delphine (and the reader) understand how Cecile's difficult childhood influenced her choice to leave her husband and not be a part of her children's life for a while. Her abandonment of her daughters reminded me of the book _The Language of Flowers_. In this book, the protagonist, an aged-out foster child, finally finds romantic and professional happiness, but when her child is born, sh...more
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
Hmm. Maybe 3.5 stars. I guess this was good, but for some reason it didn't quite hit me. Maybe because there was no leavening humor, and the main character was a bit under-developed - she was more of a role-filler than a real person. Still, it belongs in every 5th-or 6th- grade Social Studies classroom, imo. Now I'm off to look up We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks.
Excellent novel for middle grade readers in particular to learn about the sixties and the Black Panthers. Fast enjoyable read and full of a lot of sentiment and humour. Check out my in-depth review
Sara Snarr
I really enjoyed this book. Williams-Garcia gets inside the head of a sweet eleven-year-old from Brooklyn who goes to Oakland, CA for the summer in the midsts of race riots and the Black Panter rise of the 1960s. She has seen too much and has taken upon herself the care of her two younger sisters. Her mother left her with her father & grandmother when she was 4, and she's spent the last 5 years being the one who "never left." This summer, they go to Oakland to spend the summer with Mom for t...more
When this book was first in pre-pub form I gave my advanced reader's copy to a young man who became one of my top "Kid Critics" at the bookstore. His name was Yoav. I'm sure he's still out there reading and I daren't ask how old he is now. Yoav was not a easy young boy to select books for (not an action/adventure junkie like so many other boys his age), but I soon learned he had a wonderful sense of how important stories could be and taste for excellent literature. He recommended this book more...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...more
More about Rita Williams-Garcia...
P.S. Be Eleven (Gaither Sisters, #2) Like Sisters on the Homefront Jumped No Laughter Here Every Time a Rainbow Dies

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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.” 14 likes
“It was a strange, wonderful feeling. To discover eyes upon you when you expected no one to notice you at all.” 12 likes
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