Delphine and her two sisters are not thrilled about flying from New York to Oakland to “meet” their mother, Cecile. They haven’t seen or spoken to Cecile since she left their family when Delphine was only four years old and Fern was still an infant. Now it is 1968, Delphine is eleven years old, and she can’t understand why her father thinks that meeting Cecile is so important–especially since Cecile doesn’t want to meet them either. From the minute they arrive, it is obvious that Cecile has no idea how to take care of children and views them as an inconvenience. Delphine finds herself responsible for making sure her sisters are fed and getting along with one another. All Cecile seems to want to do is write poetry all day long. To get them out of the house, she insists that Delphine and the girls attend a Black Panthers summer camp. Delphine is bothered by the political message of the camp and knows that her father and grandmother would not approve. But as the girls get more and more wrapped up in the Black Panther community and Cecile’s life, their own lives begin to seem more complicated. More than just meeting their mother, they begin to discover new things about themselves.
One Crazy Summer fully deserved its Coretta Scott King Award and Newbery Honor. The characters in this book are complicated and fascinating and there is just enough intrigue and adventure in the plot to keep the story engaging. I highly recommend this book to middle grade readers who enjoy historical fiction, coming-of-age stories, or stories about complicated families.