“One Crazy Summer”: Great Summer Reading

As the school year winds down, teachers are preparing the SUMMER READING LIST. Parents and teachers both know about the research that addresses the “summer slide.”  It’s real.  The good news is that a routine of reading during the summer can prevent that slide. It’s important to choose appropropriate books that the kiddos will embrace.

Here’s one that I recommend:  One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. It’s won a ton of awards but that’s not always a predictor of how well children will enjoy it. I think late elementary and middle school students will be engaged in this story of three sisters and their unique summer vacation.

It’s 1968 and the sisters from Brooklyn are sent on their first plane trip to visit their mother in Oakland, California.  This isn’t a typical non-custodial parent visit, however; their mother abandoned them when the youngest was a baby in a crib. Their father feels it’s time that the girls get to know their mother. Their mother appears to disagree, only grudgingly allowing her daughters to visit.  While the girls dream of going to Disneyland, “Cecile”, as they call their mom, only wants them to stay out of her way and make as little mess as possible.

Cecile is minimally involved in the Black Panther movement as a poet. She sends the girls to a Panther-run day camp, mainly to get them out of her hair and to get a free breakfast. The author skillfully and subtly shows how the  girls change from “colored” to giving the black power salute.  Cecile never fully embraces a typical motherhood role during the girls’ visit, but the reader is allowed a brief glimpse into what motivates her. The girls never make it to Disneyland, but have quite an adventure in 1968 San Francisco…hippies, flower children, and Black Panthers.

Definitely a great addition to those ubiquitous reading lists!!

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