Tag Archives: Civil Rights

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia — The Newbery Project

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One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

The Black Panthers. Finding the mother who abandoned you. One Crazy Summer isn’t exactly Captain Underpants. It’s serious stuff. And yet, it was moving, and touching, and very recommendable.

Although there was no Disney happily-ever-after ending here, One Crazy Summer broke with what was beginning to seem like a Newbery tradition — the heart-wrenching tragic event. (And thank goodness for that. It’s really not my goal when reading for pleasure to sob miserably at any point. I mean, it’s one thing for a book to be meaningful, and another thing altogether for it to make me depressed for weeks. But for that rant see my discussion of  Hattie Big Sky.)

Delphine, and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are sent to spend the summer with Cecile, the mother who abandoned them years earlier. From their travel to their mother’s home in California to their interactions with her Black Panther friends, the girls provide a fresh, and often painfully honest, look at the turmoil of the 1960s.

Give it a try. I know it may not be your usual read, but One Crazy Summer will give you a lot to think about. And that’s not a bad thing.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Newbery Honor – 2011

A.R. Level: 4.6; Middle Grades

Lexile: 750L

After Tupac and D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson – The Newbery Project

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After Tupac and D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson

I was beginning to think that the Newbery awards were only given to middle grade books. Some, like The Tale of Despereaux (and possibly, The Higher Power of Lucky), have felt like they were more appropriate to lower grades , but none have seemed like anything a high schooler would listen too. Even though, I have to admit, I felt a little bit uncomfortable about the language in After Tupac and D Foster. In fact, I’m still wondering about the AR Bookfinder categorizing this UG. Although the plot (and some language) may seem more appropriate for teens, the main characters are 12-year old girls — which usually lands a book smack in the middle of the MG category.

But, back to the story…

I remember when Tupac died. And I remember thinking it was really sad because I thought he was kind of interesting, and I liked his music — which is saying something, considering that rap never was my favorite musical genre. But ultimately I was too old, and maybe a little too white and comfortably situated, to really get it.

One thing I really liked about this book was that D’s current foster mother was actually portrayed in a (mostly) positive light. As a former foster parent myself, I can be a little sensitive to negative portrayals of foster parents. I know there are bad people out there — we get to read about them in the news, after all — but there are also plenty of folks who get into foster care simply because they love children. Although we never meet her, we learn that D’s foster mom is one of the few people who have provided any stability in her life.

Oh way, you want to know something about the plot? Hmmm…there’s not really much to say in that regard. It’s a coming of age story that follows the lives of the narrator (who is never named), Neeka, and D from shortly before Tupac was shot the first time, until he was finally killed. The girls relate to Tupac, even though the narrator’s and Neeka’s lives seem pretty stable by comparison.

A couple of scenes that stuck with me:

– The bus trip out to visit Neeka’s brother, Tash, in jail. There’s something so loving, and so sad about the way Neeka’s mom has packed up all the kids and a huge lunch for the half-day trip to the jail.

– J Jones bragging about how many baskets he’d shot one day. And yet, despite his  hard work and college goals, being harassed by the police, pretty much just for walking own the street.

– The retelling of how Tash was taken in by a guy he cared about and ended up hurting his true friend and getting jail time to boot. That story hurt. And it didn’t matter that Tash was gay. His heartache was the same as anyone else’s would be. I also liked the way Neeka’s family both accepted Tash and tried to convince to be less gay. It was real to me.

So did I like the book? Yeah. I did want it to have a little more direction sometimes, but having said that, it was one of those audiobooks that made me actually look forward to my commute (and trust me, there is nothing else good about my commute).

After Tupac and D Foster, by Jacqueline Woodson

Newbery Honor Book – 2009

A.R. Level: 4.7; Upper Grades

You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea.

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“You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea.” — Medgar Evers, civil rights activist assassinated June 12, 1963.

Change, living it together every day

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Change

My ancestors owned slaves in Georgia —
Few or many, slaves the same.
Her ancestors were slaves in Georgia.
They may have been our own.

We grew up together — neighbors, friends,
sleepovers, boys, highschool, college, marriage, kids.
We rarely talk about our ancestors,
but we wonder…how our lives,
so intertwined in loving friendship now,
would have seemed to those ancestors
whose lives intertwined so differently then?

Today we sit together, creating together,
a sisterhood to amaze our ancestors,
and fulfilling the dreams of others
who bravely fought to bring this day.


“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” 
– Martin Luther King

This post was created as part of Six Word Fridays.