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One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

I just read One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. I really, really enjoyed this book. I love historical fiction and am usually attracted to any new historical fiction title that comes through our Children’s area. I’m just sort of magnetically attracted to these books. But with this one, my radar was ringing in my head and alarms were going off… Check me out… Check me out! The book cover is beautifully illustrated and so attractive! It would catch any reader’s eye, even those reluctant to read “History” books. 

The setting is back in the late 1960’s, Oakland, California, during the beginning of the “Black Panther” movement. It was a time of civil distress and upheaval across the country and within the Black community. It was the time of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and the clash of their two philosophies.
Three young sisters are sent to spend the summer with their mother who they have not seen since the youngest sister was born seven years ago. Big Ma, their grandmother, doesn’t want them to go and warns Pa what a bad idea this is. But, Pa says, ”It’s time. They need to know Cecile.”   

They soon find out that Cecile does not want them there. “They’re getting in the way of her work,” she says. As a poet, she doesn’t have any time for them and is not happy that they are there.  Cecile sends them off each day to a summer camp sponsored by the revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where “They” can feed them and take care of them. “Don’t bother coming back until dark!” she tells them. The sisters are scared and worried. Should they call their Pa and tell him Big Ma was right? They have no experience with people in the “Black Panthers” except for what they have seen on the nightly news. Big Ma said, “They’re bad and dangerous.” Why would their mother send them to their camp?

This is an enlightening story of the time period and the struggles between the different thoughts of the day and the racial conflicts.
The sisters are very likable and realistic. You will want to laugh with them, hold them, and cry with them, sometimes all at the same time! This book has been nominated for a National Book Award for Young People's Literature.