I found One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia on a list of recommended reading for fourth or fifth grade, and we finally got around to it this year. I didn’t really know what I was about to read, though I could see all those awards, all but covering the front of the book. I enjoyed it. It’s destined to become an American children’s classic and kept on reading lists for many years to come. My son liked it too, but it didn’t make it to either of our favorites list. Still, worth the read and I would recommend it, especially when in the middle of studying modern American history.
The writing is nice. The characters are engaging. The story is interesting enough (though not as dramatic as it could be, I suppose). The topics are important and engaging. And that’s really what this book is about. It would be cute on its own, but the author really wants the reader to head on back to LA/Oakland during the days of race riots and Black Panthers and put themselves in the shoes of a motherless, spunky black girl who would prefer to have a fun summer, but is called up to a whole lotta responsibility.
The characters are really charming. But don’t be fooled. You shouldn’t just hand this book to a kid and walk away. There needs to be discussion, even if it is just about the terms used in this book (like “negro” and “colored”). You really have to discuss the historical context, as well, because kids this age simply don’t have a context yet for plenty of the situations in this book.
But once the explanations and context are given, it’s a great read, and I was sad to say goodbye to Delphine, at the end.
Note: the ending may be a little disappointing from a psychological or relational standpoint. While perhaps realistic, we are left grasping for a moral or a happy ending, much like the main character is.