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One Crazy Summer (novel) facts for kids

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One Crazy Summer
Author Rita Williams-Garcia
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's historical fiction, realistic fiction
Publisher Amistad
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 218
ISBN 9780060760885 (trade bdg.)
LC Class PZ7.W6713 On 2010

One Crazy Summer is a historical fiction novel by American author Rita Williams-Garcia, published by Amistad in 2010. The novel is about Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, three sisters, visiting their mother in Oakland, California, during the summer of 1968.

In the year of its inception, the book was a National Book Award finalist for young people's literature. In 2011 it won the Coretta Scott King Award for its author, the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and was a Newbery Medal Honor Book.


Delphine, aged eleven, Vonetta, nine, and Fern, seven, live with their father and grandmother in Brooklyn, New York. However, the girls’ father sends them to Oakland, California one summer to stay with their estranged mother, Cecile, who refers to herself as Nzilla. Cecile never calls Fern by her name, always referring to her as "little girl." This makes Delphine believe what her grandmother has always said to be true—that Cecile abandoned her children because their father objected to her giving the baby the name of Afua. Cecile makes Delphine hand over the money her father gave them for expenses in California, giving them a small allowance to get Chinese food every day and forbidding them to enter her kitchen, which is Cecile's workplace where she writes and prints poetry.

During the day, the three sisters go to The People's Center run by the Black Panther Party for breakfast and day camp, where they meet Sister Mukumbu. Here the three sisters get taught about the movement, which she explains what the movement does like feeding poor and helping poor African Americans and to protect African American communities. The Black Panther member Bobby Hutton has been shot and killed by police, and one of their founding members, Huey Newton, has been wrongfully jailed. The children at the center will soon participate in a rally to protest these injustices.

After a day trip to San Francisco, the sisters return home to find their mother Cecile and two members of the Black Panther Party being arrested. Cecile tells the police she has no children, so the girls pretend to live next door. Soon a friend from the Center, Hirohito, comes for the girls and allows them to stay with him and his mother until Cecile returns home.

The time of the rally arrives. During the talent show portion, the girls perform a poem their mother wrote, which they found while cleaning the kitchen after her arrest. After their recital, Fern takes the microphone and tells the Black Panthers how she saw one of their most vocal members, (Crazy) Kelvin, interacting agreeably with the police, which gets him in trouble with the party members.

At the rally, the sisters see their mother has been released from jail, and return home with her. Though Delphine and Cecile's relationship remains strained, Cecile tells Delphine how she lost her mother at the age of eleven and had a rough life thereafter. She tries to explain why she left her children, but Delphine is still too young to understand. The next day, the girls return home, after finally hugging their mother.

Character list

  • Delphine Gaither-- Aged 11. a responsible girl who takes care of her two younger sisters; mature and caring; narrates the story.
  • Vonetta Gaither-- Aged 9. An attention-seeking girl, outgoing, and loves to perform. Also feisty!
  • Fern (Afua) Gaither-- Aged 7 1/2. The youngest Gaither sister, who is courageous and outspoken; she's attached to her doll, Miss PattyCake.
  • Cecile (Nzila) Johnson-- Delphine, Vonetta and Fern's mother; a poet who abandoned her daughters and moved to California; she also supports the Black Panthers.
  • Louis Gaither (Pa)-- Delphine, Vonetta and Fern's father.
  • Big Ma-- Louis' mother who has been taking care of her grandchildren since their mother left and who has no tolerance for Cecile and her behavior.
  • Darnell Gaither-- Louis' younger brother who is fighting in the Vietnam war.
  • "Crazy" Kelvin-- Member of the Black Panthers and a police informant.
  • Sister Mukumbu: Teacher at the people's center who involves the Gaither sisters in Black Panther activities.
  • Sister Pat-- Works at the people's center.
  • Eunice, Janice, and Beatrice Ankton-- Three sisters who go to the people's center and eventually become friends with the Gaither sisters.
  • Hirohito Woods-- a Japanese and African-American boy who goes to the people's center; his father was arrested for being a freedom fighter and his father gets arrested.
  • Mrs. Woods: Hirohito's mother; takes care of the Gaither sisters after Cecile is arrested.
  • " Mean Lady" Ming: The owner of the Chinese restaurant that is Cecile's favorite and is initially mean to the girls,


One Crazy Summer is the first book in the Gaither Sisters Series. The second book, P.S. Be Eleven was published in 2013, and features the girls returning to their home in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The third book, Gone Crazy in Alabama was published in 2015 and features the sisters visiting their relatives in Autauga County, Alabama. The two sequels were also winners of the Coretta Scott King Award.


This book is recommended for ages 9–12. It has a Lexile of 750L.


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