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6609764Title: One Crazy Summer

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Publication Date: 2010

Publisher: Amistad (HarperCollins Publishers)

Price: $15.99 Hardcover

Number of Pages: 215

Awards: Coretta Scott King Award 2011, Newbery Honor Book 2011, Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction 2011, National Book Award Finalist 2010, Junior Library Guild Selection, Texas Library Association Best Book for 2010

Genre/Subgenre: Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction


Popularity: 3.5/5

Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation:

Three sisters spend a summer in Oakland with their long-lost mother and the Black Panther Party.


Delphine Gaither and her little sisters Vonetta and Fern have no idea what to expect when their Pa and Big Ma send them to spend the summer in Oakland with their long-lost mother Cecile, an artist and poet who ran away when they were little. When they arrive in Oakland, the girls discover that Cecile is not the most nurturing of mothers and wants little to do with them. Cecile sends them to a summer day camp sponsored by the Black Panthers, where the girls learn about activism and race but also about who their mother really is. The girls, particularly Delphine, go from resenting their mother for abandoning them to identifying with her and wanting her to know that they understand her. The girls’ summer experience wraps up with an oration of one of Cecile’s poems at a rally to show their support for her.


One Crazy Summer is a wonderful book. Rita Williams-Garcia has created a relatable, winning heroine in Delphine, whom readers are sure to love. The novel makes excellent use of humor and descriptive imagery, truly making the reader feel like they are in 1968 Oakland. This is an excellent example of historical fiction.

Why I Chose the Book:

I first chose this book because I love historical fiction and it was one of the titles I learned about when doing research for my presentation on the Scott O’Dell Award. I was also very intrigued about the subject matter – never before had I  encountered a novel written for children that featured the Black Panther Party as a major plot point. I had to know more!


P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Inside Out and Back Again by Thannhai Lai

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Book Talk Ideas

– Talk about the historical elements at play in One Crazy Summer. Discuss the Black Panther Party, its significance at the time of the novel, and how it shapes the story.

Discussion Questions

1. One Crazy Summer deals with the questions of race and what it means to be an African-American in 1968. Compare the messages about race that Delphine gets from her father and grandmother with the messages she gets from Cecile and her Black Panther summer camp.

2. In the novel, Cecile is a noted activist poet. How does poetry play a role in the story, and in Delphine and her sisters’ discovery of their mother?

3. What is the significance of naming and of choosing one’s name in One Crazy Summer?


One Crazy Summer (2014). Amazon. Retrieved from: http://www.amazon.com/One-Crazy-Summer-Rita-Williams-Garcia/dp/0060760885/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1394152996

One Crazy Summer (2014). Goodreads. Retrieved from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6609764-one-crazy-summer?from_search=true

Williams-Garcia, R. (2010). One Crazy Summer. New York: Amistad.

Williams-Garcia, R. (2014). One Crazy Summer [Blog post]. Rita Williams-Garcia. Retrieved from:http://www.ritawg.com/one-crazy-summer/