Cover image for One crazy summer / by Rita Williams-Garcia.
One crazy summer / by Rita Williams-Garcia.




1st ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Amistad, ©2010.
Physical Description:
218 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Sequel: P.S. Be eleven.

Gaither Sisters ;

In the summer of 1968, after traveling 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 camp.
Audience/Reading Level:
Ages 9-12.

750L Lexile


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
WIL Paperback Junior Paperback Fiction

On Order



In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. "This vibrant and moving award-winning novel has heart to spare."*

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. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, 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.

This moving, funny novel won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award Finalist. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern's story continues in P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.

Readers who enjoy Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming will find much to love in One Crazy Summer.

This novel was the first featured title for Marley D's Reading Party, launched after the success of #1000BlackGirlBooks. Maria Russo, in a New York Times list of "great kids' books with diverse characters," called it "witty and original."

*Brightly, in Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich's article "Knowing Our History to Build a Brighter Future: Books to Help Kids Understand the Fight for Racial Equality"

Author Notes

Rita Williams-Garcia graduated from Hofstra University. She has written several books including Blue Tights, Every Time a Rainbow Dies, Fast Talk on a Slow Track, One Crazy Summer, and No Laughter Here. Like Sisters on the Homefront was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She won the PEN/Norma Klein Award. She currently teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in the Writing for Children and Young Adults Program. She won the Coretta Scott King awards in 2016 with her title Gone Crazy in Alabama in the author category.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Williams-Garcia (Jumped) evokes the close-knit bond between three sisters, and the fervor and tumultuousness of the late 1960s, in this period novel featuring an outspoken 11-year-old from Brooklyn, N.Y. Through lively first-person narrative, readers meet Delphine, whose father sends her and her two younger sisters to Oakland, Calif., to visit their estranged mother, Cecile. When Cecile picks them up at the airport, she is as unconventional as Delphine remembers ("There was something uncommon about Cecile. Eyes glommed onto her. Tall, dark brown woman in man's pants whose face was half hidden by a scarf, hat, and big dark shades. She was like a colored movie star"). Instead of taking her children to Disneyland as they had hoped, Cecile shoos them off to the neighborhood People's Center, run by members of the Black Panthers. Delphine doesn't buy into all of the group's ideas, but she does come to understand her mother a little better over the summer. Delphine's growing awareness of injustice on a personal and universal level is smoothly woven into the story in poetic language that will stimulate and move readers. Ages 9-12. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

It's the summer of 1968, and eleven-year-old Delphine reluctantly shepherds her two younger sisters on their trip from Brooklyn to Oakland, where the mother who deserted them now lives. Thoroughly coached by her grandmother about how little Negro girls should behave to avoid scenes, Delphine maintains her own sensibility about what is appropriate and makes sure her sisters toe the line. Their mother Cecile is far from welcoming, sending them each day to the People's Center run by the Black Panthers to keep them out of her way while she writes her poetry. At the center, the girls get free food and an education in revolution. Williams-Garcia writes about that turbulent summer through the intelligent, funny, blunt voice of Delphine, who observes outsiders and her own family with shrewdness and a keen perception of why they each behave the way they do. Never afraid to stand up to anyone or anything, Delphine copes with her equally strong-willed mother calmly, "because that's how you treat crazy people." She takes over when she has to, and during the course of their month-long visit she refines her understanding of her mother and herself. The setting and time period are as vividly realized as the characters, and readers will want to know more about Delphine and her sisters after they return to Brooklyn with their radical new ideas about the world. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

New York Review of Books Review

MOTHERS. Can't live with them. Can't live without them. Yet 11-year-old Delphine and her younger sisters Vonetta and Fern have done just fine without theirs. Cecile, a poet, walked out on them just after Fern was born. Now, in the summer of 1968, their father, with the reluctant agreement of their grandmother, has decided that the three girls need to leave their Brooklyn home to spend a few weeks with their mother in Oakland, Calif., to get to know her. Turns out she doesn't want to get to know them. After barely acknowledging them at the airport, Cecile brusquely takes them to her sparsely furnished stucco house; sends them to pick up a Chinese take-out dinner, which they eat on the floor; and then pretty much ignores them. The next day, wanting them out of her way, she directs them to the Black Panther People's Center. "Can't miss it. Nothing but black folks in black clothes rapping revolution and a line of hungry black kids." The girls are shocked; their mother is sending them on their own to a bunch of militant strangers? However, they need breakfast, so they find their way to the center, where they meet and learn about the Black Panthers, make friends and, as the summer goes on, contribute their own part to the movement. Surprising though it may be to those old enough to remember 1968, this is a work of historical fiction. The author - a National Book Award finalist for her young adult novel "Jumped" - is also old enough to remember, and she skillfully slips in wry period touches like Delphine's beloved Timex watch, "The Mike Douglas Show" on television and the picture - on the classroom wall at the People's Center - of Huey Newton "sitting in a big wicker chair with a rifle at his side." The story is tightly centered around the three sisters. In spare, poetic prose Williams-Garcia layers nuanced descriptions and brief, evocative scenes to create three utterly distinctive characters - Fern, the youngest, looking out a bus window and singing to herself; the usually brazen Vonetta freezing up with stage fright at a rally; and the stoic Delphine remembering her mother before she left them. "Papa didn't keep any pictures of Cecile, but I had a sense of her. Fuzzy flashes of her always came and went." THE only one of the three old enough to have memories, it is Delphine who tells their tale. Acting older than her age, she fusses over Vonetta and Fern, seeing they eat properly, reading them bedtime stories, filling in for the mother they never knew. But by the end of their visit that mother has, in spite of herself, begun to know her daughters, and wisely advises her oldest, "Be 11, Delphine. Be 11 while you can." In "One Crazy Summer" Williams-Garcia presents a child's-eye view of the Black Panther movement within a powerful and affecting story of sisterhood and motherhood. Monica Edinger, a teacher at the Dalton School in New York City, writes the blog Educating Alice.