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One Crazy Summer (Gaither Sisters #1)

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  15,812 Ratings  ·  2,308 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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Joan An important period of time in American history. In particular how this time affected three young black sisters.
Joan This book is listed as being for young readers. However, I found it very enjoyable, and informative, and I am a senior citizen.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperMockingjay by Suzanne CollinsOne Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-GarciaCountdown by Deborah WilesMockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
Newbery 2011
3rd out of 135 books — 535 voters
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. DraperFinally by Wendy MassMockingbird by Kathryn ErskineBecause of Mr. Terupt by Rob BuyeaCountdown by Deborah Wiles
Mock Newbery 2010/2011
6th out of 85 books — 219 voters

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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 it was amazing  ·  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
Feb 01, 2010 Betsy rated it it was amazing
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
Beth Knight
Nov 15, 2014 Beth Knight rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
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
Afton Nelson
Oct 09, 2010 Afton Nelson rated it liked it
Shelves: juvenile
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
Oct 18, 2013 Robin rated it liked it
Shelves: mcba-2013
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
Jul 13, 2011 Nnedi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 20, 2015 Hallie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2013 Raina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j, urban, historical, feminist
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
Jan 08, 2014 Saejean rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 22, 2012 Laura rated it it was ok
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
Mary Ronan Drew
Jan 07, 2011 Mary Ronan Drew rated it did not like it
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
Lisa Vegan
Nov 30, 2010 Lisa Vegan rated it really liked it
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
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.
Mar 15, 2015 R.J. rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
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
Jun 05, 2010 Sarah BT rated it it was amazing
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
Marjorie Ingall
Apr 28, 2010 Marjorie Ingall rated it it was amazing
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
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
Emily Kimball
Sep 06, 2014 Emily Kimball rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Emily  Nuttall
Apr 26, 2014 Emily Nuttall rated it really liked it
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
Mar 13, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tweener-lit
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
Eva Mitnick
Sep 24, 2010 Eva Mitnick rated it really liked it
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
Mar 24, 2010 Edie rated it it was amazing
Delphine, the heroine of Rita Williams-Garcia's latest book is one of the strongest female characters I've come across in a long time. Given the job of taking care of her two younger sisters as they go out to California to meet the mother none of them can really remember (and who doesn't want them to come and treat them poorly when they arrive), she soldiers on, critical of the Black Panther summer camp her mother "unloads" them on, anxious to have at least one adventure while they are there, fe ...more
Oct 04, 2010 Nina rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
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
Apr 18, 2010 Abby Johnson rated it really liked it
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
Jul 20, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-lit
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
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
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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 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)

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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.” 19 likes
“It was a strange, wonderful feeling. To discover eyes upon you when you expected no one to notice you at all.” 17 likes
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