I like to brag that I have the world most enjoyable job, and I will take on all the ice cream tasters and mattress testers who want to dispute my claim. Sometimes opportunities come along that take the enjoyable to the realms of enchanting. Recently Jennah Watters from the K-12 Recorded Books Blog offered me the opportunity to hold a summer book club starring one of the most extolled books of 2010, none other than Rita Garcia-Williams’ One Crazy Summer.
Jennah provided an extravagant number of audios, and I provided a perfect number of girls willing to spend a summer’s afternoon in the school library. It goes without saying that the caliber of participants was exceptional. These are girls who spend big chunks of their summer reading without mandates. I would have loved to include a few boys but as I was culling from Summer Library patrons I had to recruit from the troops that walked by. Maybe another time we can get some male involvement. It does have to be said that One Crazy Summer is a very girl friendly tale indeed.
One Crazy Summer is an emotion-packed story of three young sisters, Delphine 11, Vonetta 9, and Fern 7. They have flown from their Brooklyn home the summer of 1968 to travel to San Francisco to spend a summer with their mother, Cecile. A mother they haven’t seen since she walked out on them when Fern was a nursing infant. From their first contact with Cecile, it is clear that she has no use for her offspring. The girls, hoping for seven years of makeup mothering, were instead kept at arms length and shipped off each day for summer camp at the local Black Panther establishment.
I’d read the book some months ago and was already a big fan. Listening to the audio was a whole other level of delightful. Narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson, the book that has been repeatedly lauded for having a strong, genuine voice was attached to an audible voice, in Johnson, which cemented the time-period, location, and cadences to perfection.
Hirohito was a big hit among this group of Delphine’s would-be peers. The part where Delphine rides Hirohito’s go cart was much lauded. I can only imagine why. The awkwardness of the “China Boy” scene was also admired. (Note to all middle-grade writers: a little romance, no matter how light, does not go unappreciated.)
I was struck by how appreciative my very non-diverse, well-mothered group was of Delphine’s, Vonetta’s, Fern’s and Cecile’s story. It reinforced my belief that reading not only provides our young with experiences that broadens their understanding of the world, but also broadens their capacity for empathy.
The chance to sit and luxuriate in this conversation was like a small dose of heroin. I’m ready for another fix. I’m looking forward to starting up my Newbery Club in a few weeks, which will hopefully elicit more experiences of this sort. Thank you to Jennah and Recorded Books for this opportunity.