Hi friends! This blog is for teachers and families- all for the sheer joy of literacy. When we are enthusiastic about reading and writing our students and our own kids become excited to read and write. I hope that we all can be models for those in our care- how did you show your passion for reading, writing, learning, language, or words today?? It's in those small, daily moments that we teach kids to love literacy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Read Aloud Thursday: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Over the course of the summer, a couple of soon-to-be 5th grade girls are coming to my place to get some low-key reading support. Considering that today was such a beautiful sunny day in Oakland, California, we decided to do our reading at a nearby park. We grabbed the Radio Flyer, our books, my toddler and her sand toys, and were on our way.

The girls did some partner reading, snuggled in the wagon we toted to the park- it was very sweet, and hopefully enjoyable for them.

Then as my daughter played close-by, I began reading Rita Williams-Garcia's One Crazy Summer aloud to the girls. This book is above their reading levels, but I wanted to share it with them- so a read aloud made perfect sense.

Many of my students are Latino, have been raised in East Oakland, but know little about the rich cultural diversity surrounding them or about the history that has shaped the Oakland they live in. The 2 girls I'm working with this summer are also Latino. I asked them what they new about Bay Area or California history, and they could tell me that there were 21 missions and that California used to be Mexico. While these are both true, I was hoping they'd have more of a sense of our history: Chinese Immigrants laid most of the railroad tracks out west; Japanese Americans immigrated to California through Angel Island, and many were placed in Japanese Internment Camps after during WWII ; African Americans migrated from they south to work in Oakland's Shipyards in the 50s and 60s, the Black Panther Movement; Mien, Vietnamese, and Cambodian families came to Oakland in droves after the Vietnam War, and so on... Well, okay, I knew they wouldn't know a lot of this history, and that's one of the reasons why I chose to read this book aloud to them. I want to build their background knowledge about the world they live in, and besides, it's a great story, regardless of the setting.

I really enjoyed this book. I feel like it gave me a bigger sense in the Oakland I live in and the world of the Black Panthers. I think I wanted to read this and have a sense if the Black Panthers should go on my good/bad list. But Williams-Garcia does an excellent job portraying the positive side of the panthers, while also exposing readers to the more dangerous aspects of the political movement.

Her characters are very 3-dimensional. You hurt for them, and relate to them completely. I also like the way she writes. In the future I can see using this book as a mentor text in teaching writing with imagery- she does this very well.

I would recommend this book to kids grades 5+, and I would encourage adults to read it as well!

It was pretty awesome to be sitting in the sun at the park, my baby playing nearby, reading aloud to eager students. Oakland today feels like such a different Oakland in so many ways.

Listen to the author reading an excerpt of the book here.

From Good Reads:

Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.
When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.

Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, one crazy summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls in search of the mother who abandoned them—an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia.
Hardcover218 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Amistad (first published January 8th 2010)
I'm linking up at Hope is the Word. Check out the other great RAT posts!

I'm also (belatedly) linking up to Book Blogger Hop at Crazy for Books.

Question for the Week: “When did you realize reading was your passion and a truly important part of your life?” I started really enjoying reading in my senior year in high school (I know, pretty late in the game!!). Reading became a passion when I started working with kids and I was introduced to more and more books! It also helped marrying someone that was an English major in college. We love sharing books and talking shop together (he's also a teacher). I always wished I loved books as a kid, but I didn't. I hope that that won't be the story for my own kids and the kids I work with!

Be Well! Read on!


  1. Oh my goodness, I LOVE this post! What an opportunity! How rewarding it must be to encourage and help these students, and to be able to do it with your own child close by! :-) I've also read and enjoyed One Crazy Summer, and I appreciate knowing now that some real middle graders actually have enjoyed the story! Here's a link to my review---> one-crazy-summer-by-rita-williams-garcia

  2. Oops--that isn't my link. ;-) Here it is:


  3. I also read One Crazy Summer and liked it. I actually liked it more after I had finished it and thought about it than I did while I was reading it. I would bet that the connection to Oakland made the experience of reading it much richer for you. And, I agree with Amy, how wonderful to share it with a group of students as you did!

  4. Amy, Yes, it is a neat opportunity. I have a relationship with the family. It's so nice to be able to work with these kids in a relaxed home setting. Hopefully they'll catch the reading bug and feel supported. Thanks for the link to your review :)

  5. Susan, The connection to Oakland is very big for me. Oakland was shaped in many ways by the Black Panther movement- and this book awakened me to that fact. Now it's hard for me to miss the evident influence the Black Panthers has had in Oakland. Thanks for stopping by! :)


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