The Bookshelf Corner

A creative space for all things books and writing….

Book Review: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

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Image via Amazon

Genre: Children’s Fiction (Middle Grade), Historical Fiction
Series: Gaither Sisters, book 1
Rating: 3.5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quote: “A name is important. It isn’t something you drop in the litter basket or on the ground. Your name is how people know you. The very mention of your name makes a picture spring to mind, whether it’s a picture of clashing fists or a mighty mountain that can’t be knocked down. Your name is who you are and how you’re known even when you do something great or something dumb.”


My Summary:
Set in 1968 Oakland, California, three sisters spend a crazy summer with their estranged mother.


My Review:
I’m not sure what to make of this book. The writing and storytelling by Rita Williams-Garcia was so well done, funny, really imaginative and flawless in its execution. It held my attention from start to finish – but after reading it in its entirety I find it, for me, was okay.

It’s very different from any middle grade novel I ever had to read in school that I can remember. I think that largely has to do with the setting and language. I don’t remember how early grade-school kids learn about this part of American history – the racial disparity and struggle to transition to true freedom for all post-Civil War – but it had me wondering if One Crazy Summer is accessible to 9-12 year old. Yes, I think so. A far cry more accessible and easier to take in than To Kill A Mockingbird. Both serve a purpose, demonstrating the good, bad, ugly and harsh reality of those times. But it’s all perception – middle graders are able to handle and interpret for themselves more and more as time goes on. So I can see One Crazy Summer being a part of a school’s curriculum, if it hasn’t already. Certainly, it would provide students with historical education and writing knowledge in more ways than one.

I did enjoy Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern’s characters. I loved their sister dynamic and individual personalities. I loved how Delphine takes it upon herself to look after her younger siblings and learn what she can by watching the news or reading from the Merriam Webster dictionary. If I were in middle grade, I think I would have enjoy this novel more than I do now – I wouldn’t feel so indifferent about it – because of the view of the world and descriptions we get through Delphine’s point of view would greatly appeal to child-me. For instance, Delphine thinks, “Thank goodness you can’t see cherries in a chocolate bar. I’d have been a red-faced rose if not for my Hershey brown complexion” (113). That was my favorite line.

The most moving part of the novel I found to be the chapter, “Everyone Knows the King of the Sea,” where Delphine talks about the importance of names (see above mentioned favorite quote). It was a very wise explanation about names for someone so young. Names have a lot of power and meaning, and Delphine understood that so perfectly.


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