On a previous post, I decided that the first book to read for the Mock Newbery 2011 was One Crazy Summer which was written by Rita Williams-Garcia. My initial thought of the book is that it is okay. Nothing really to write home about and although it may be too early to decide if this would win the top honors or not, my gut instincts tells me it won't for several reasons. In fiction, it is desirable for the readers and the characters to have common ground. While this book will find those readers who will identify with the characters of this book, it lacks broad appeal.
The details that are wonderful and memorable are few. The one character that should have been more involved was Big Ma. It was her strong motherly care for her grandchildren that made this reader want to get to know her more. From the point of view of the main character, Delphine, Big Ma was a women who believed that family came first. With this commandment in hand she drilled into her family how to behave, how to dress and how to have pride in oneself. Who couldn't admire a grandmother like that? The Pop Culture of the late 1960's was also a nice touch. This presents the opportunity for children to ask their parents questions about years gone by and parents can recall memories of bell bottoms, hippies and protests. It's a pretty neat trip down memory lane.
What troubles this reader the most about the book is that it is centered around a woman who gave up her three daughters to write poems in order to "fight against the man". In other worlds, she wrote poetry for the Blank Panther movement. The position of the author on the topic of civil activism and violence is confusing. On one hand, the main character understands that being a the Blank Panther's community center could be dangerous. In the next breath Williams-Garcia describes the workers as wonderful role models who are teaching the children their rights. What is dangerous about this book is that it paints the Black Panther movement as something positive. There are mention in the story of calling the police "pigs" or "racist pigs". It doesn't matter what side of the political scale a person is on, it should be agreed that teaching children to disrespect or mistrust the police is never a good thing. It also shows a lack of respect between the races which is sad. It would be so much better if stories could be color blind. Whatever ethnic background we have, there is one common trait that all of us share. We all belong to the human race.
One Crazy Summer is an okay story but there has got to be better ones out there for the Newbery awards. Next month's Mrs. Nowc's Mock Newbery's selection will be The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. Let me know what you think of either books. If there is a title that you think merits consideration on this list, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org