One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

This highly honored book, including a Newbery Medal honor, by Rita Williams-Garcia kind of blew me away.

Delphine, eleven, is and has almost always been in charge of looking after her two younger sisters, Vonetta, nine, and Fern, seven. While they live a nice life with Papa and Big Ma in Brooklyn, this summer they are being sent to Oakland to visit Cecile, the mother that abandoned them seven years ago, for twenty-eight fateful days. And, it turns out, Cecile doesn’t turn out to be the mothering type.

With both feet safely on the ground, Vonetta became her old self, her face shiny and searching. “What do we call her?”

I’d gone over this with Vonetta and Fern many, many times. I told them long before Papa said we were going to meet her. I told them while we packed our suitcases. “Her name is Cecile. That’s what you call her. When people ask who she is, you say, ‘She is our mother.'”

Mother is a statement of fact. Cecile Johnson gave birth to us. We came out of Cecile Johnson. In the animal kingdom that makes her our mother. Every mammal on the planet has a mother, dead or alive. Ran off or stayed put. Cecile Johnson – mammal birth giver, alive, an abandoner – is our mother. A statement of fact.


Mommy gets up to give you a glass of water in the middle of the night. Mom invites your friends inside when it’s raining. Mama burns your ears with the hot comb to make your hair look pretty for class picture day. Ma is sore and worn out from wringing your wet clothes and hanging them to dry; Ma needs peace and quiet at the end of the day.

We don’t have one of those. We have a statement of fact. (13-14)

I ached for all of these girls, but especially for Delphine.

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 the ugly. (90)

This story is delightfully told. It’s sad but not too sad. Dark but not too dark. I loved these characters. And I think you will too.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia [rating:4]

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