Rita Williams Garcia's One Crazy Summer received so much buzz prior to the Newbery announcement, and yet here it is that I am just getting it read. The sad part of this is that I had purchased this book for myself right when it was published, before it was even on the Newbery radar.
This book was right up my alley- middle grade historical fiction - my favorite genre, and there was lots about this story to love. Delphine and her sisters were sent to California to visit their mother for a month in the summer. Their mother had left her family when the youngest daughter, Fern, was just a baby. Delphine remembers bit and pieces about life with her mother, but their idea of a fun month of summer filled with a trip to Disneyland and the beach never materializes and Cecile is about as unmotherly as they come. Instead of cooking meals for them, the girls are either sent for take out, or to the building where the Black Panthers provide free meals for those who join their cause. Cecile is big into the Black Panthers, calling herself Inzilla and writing poetry. Set in 1968, the Black Panthers have been in the news- their founder, Bobby Hutton, has been jailed, and member Huey Newton gunned down.
Although Cecile never becomes the mother figure I wished for the girls, she does redeem herself a bit by book's end, and share part of her history with her daughters. As an adult reading this story, I was perhaps more saddened by this mother figure than children who read this story will be. I could see many readers recognizing Cecile's poor parenting, but not aching for the girls because of it. This is the type of book - as most Newberys tend to be- that has that timeless feel to it. It is a good book in 2011 and will still be a good book thirty or forty years from now.