JOPLIN, Mo. —
“One Crazy Summer”
By Rita Williams-Garcia
Grades four through eight
It’s the summer of 1968 and 11-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, fly from Brooklyn to Oakland, Calif. They want to visit their mother, a poet who abandoned them after the birth of Fern.
Cecile’s tall, imposing presence is intimidating and not what the girls, at least Vonetta and Fern, were expecting. She picks them up from the airport wearing dark sunglasses and a head scarf — as though she does not want to be recognized — and hustles them into a taxi cab, onto a bus and finally to her green stucco house.
That’s where the three sisters discover they have to share one room for the length of their 28-day visit.
Cecile, or Inzilla as she now prefers to be called, refuses to allow the girls in her precious workspace — the kitchen — where, Delphine later finds out, she houses a printing press. So instead of home-cooked meals, she sends the girls out on a nightly basis to buy greasy, Chinese takeout.
It is after their initial night of takeout, when two men dressed in black visit Cecile’s house, that the girls discover that Cecile is involved with the Black Panthers.
It is through Cecile’s involvement, and her desire to have the girls out of her way, that the sisters spend practically every day during the next four weeks at the Black Panthers’ summer camp: They eat breakfast and take daylong classes on civil rights, revolution and the meaning of “Black Power.” They also have instructions from Cecile not to hurry home.
While little has been written for children about the Black Panthers, Rita Williams-Garcia — a Coretta Scott King Honor Author — approaches the topic with insight and honesty. She uses memorable, outspoken characters and an emotionally charged time in America’s past to create a superb historical fiction chapter book about children looking to reclaim their mother’s love.
Delphine’s narrative is spot on and Vonetta and Fern make equally unforgettable characters, with distinct personalities of their own. Readers who are looking for a traditional, cookie-cutter ending will not find it here. But they will get the closure they need and applaud Williams-Garcia’s brave finale.
Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at the Joplin Public Library.
JOPLIN, Mo. —
“One Crazy Summer”
Amanda Stone: Do-it-yourself popsicles can be made from fruit, yogurt
It all started with a little white lie involving the blasted ice cream truck. I may have led my innocent toddler to believe that it is a music truck.
Cheryle Finley: Vidalia onion worthy of its own festival
Vidalia onions, the state vegetable of Georgia, are grown in season during late spring and early summer. First grown near Vidalia, Ga., in the 1930s, these onions are becoming more popular each year.
Benji Tunnell: Outside of the theater, movies are still entertaining
Every once in a while, I like to take a break from the weekly movie grind and explore some other entertainment avenues. Being a movie geek, I often gravitate toward film-related stuff.
Jeremiah Tucker: New Vampire Weekend album has shades of 'Pet Sounds'
The New York band's third full-length release, "Modern Vampires of the City," an instant classic and the best album of the year, feels like a sequel to that song. It is a record about being on the cusp of real, out-of-your-20s, unromantic adulthood and the terror that accompanies the narrowing of your options.
Joe Hadsall: Grilling cookbook packed with inspiration
With a healthy supply of flat irons, I've been able to experiment with a new grilling cookbook that has turned out to pretty handy and comprehensive.
Craig Tally: Science, theology can coexist
It doesn't seem to matter that there are scientists who express faith in God, and there are religionists who have a high regard for science. Indeed, there are many people of faith who embrace the discoveries of science without fear and trembling.
Joplin church among United Methodists participating in worldwide event
Byers Avenue United Methodist will be among churches around the globe uniting for Change the World, the fourth annual such event that has spread like wildfire throughout the United Methodist denomination.
Jeana Gockley: Library lines up reading club books
The Joplin Public Library's annual Summer Reading Club kicks off on Tuesday, May 28, so in preparation for a great summer of reading, I have been digging for titles that fit with this year's "Dig Into Reading" theme.
Frankie Meyer: Information is only as good as its source
Those details later become crucial as contradictory information is found, which it will be. How can one decide which detail is correct if the sources of the details are unknown?
Ryan Richardson: Groups give tips for preventing dog bites
When I was a teenager in the '90s I had an unfortunate incident with my neighbor's dog, a Brittany, that I had grown up with. It took a chunk out of my thigh when I went into the neighbors' yard to retrieve a ball.
- More Lifestyles Headlines
- Amanda Stone: Do-it-yourself popsicles can be made from fruit, yogurt