The year is 1968 and eleven-year-old Delphine and her two young sisters are leaving behind their home in Brooklyn and heading out to Oakland for the summer. Their father has decided that the girls need to spend some time with the mother they never really knew. But when they arrive in Oakland, they find that their mother isn't exactly glad to see them.
Wanting her home to herself, their mother Cecile sends the girls to the People's Center where each day they attend a Black Panther day camp. But the girls, especially Delphine, had high hopes of getting to know their mother. Slowly, over the course of the summer, they begin to learn not only about Black History but the true nature of their mother and why she left them. And in the end, they form a bond that no one expected.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia is the 2011 winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, which is awarded for books about the African-American experience and written for a youth audience. This book is aimed at tweens but is a great book for children and adults of all ages.
It presents a unique view on race relations in the late 1960's as well as a unique view on the Black Panthers - through the eyes of a child involved in their programs. When the girls first arrive, they don't understand the struggle that is happening on the West Coast, it is far different from what they have been taught back home.
The messages in this book are quite powerful given that they are aimed at young children. This is an educational book that children will enjoy. Williams-Garcia has a talent for taking a divisive and turbulent time and making it accessible to young children. This is definitely a book you will want to read to your children while teaching them about the civil rights movement. It can't be easy to take a group as controversial as the Black Panthers and put them into a children's story without getting preachy or critical, but Rita Williams-Garcia did it perfectly.