One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

one-crazy-summer-56a140e53df78cf77268d6d7 Written by Rita Williams-Garcia

(2010) New York, New York

Amistad Press, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

When Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern Gaither leave their home in Brooklyn, New York to spend the summer with their mother in Oakland, California, they don’t know what to expect! Their mother, Cecile, left them with their Papa and grandmother (Big Ma) when they were very young, and they haven’t had any contact with her since.  Upon their arrival, Cecile doesn’t seem to want anything to do with the children.  Over the course of the summer, the girls have many adventures, ranging from encounters with the Black Panthers and the police, trips to Chinatown, classes at the community center, and a performance at a rally! By the time summer is over, the girls have grown, learned about their own family history, and have built many relationships.

Coretta Scott King Award Winner 2012

Newbery Honor Book 2011


Phrases to describe this book: Unconventional family, heartwarming, sisterly bond, growing up, inspiring.

Lexile Measure: 750L

ATOS Book Level: 4.6


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.1
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Suggested Delivery: Small group read.



Reading Strategies:

Before Reading: Before reading, have a class discussion.  Use the visual imagery technique to get students thinking about family relationships in this story.  Ask students to close their eyes and imagine themselves as a young child around the age of the Gaither sisters. Tell them to imagine that they have not seen a close relative (mother, father, sister/brother, grandmother, etc.) since they were babies, and they were flying across the country by themselves to meet this person for the first time they can remember.  Have students visualize what emotions their relatives might be expressing, and think about how they would feel in that position.  Discuss what students thought they/their relatives would be feeling, and how they pictured the relative reacting. This will set the students up to think about how the Gaither sisters were feeling in this situation, and may provide a better understanding the absurd nature of Cecile’s initial actions.

During Reading: Use the reciprocal teaching method during reading. Break students up into groups of four, and assign each student one role: summarizer, clarifier, predictor, questioner. After each chapter or two, have students switch roles.  This method will help students to monitor their comprehension, and working in a group can help improve comprehension as students can ask each other clarifying questions, etc.

After Reading: Have students complete an exit slip. Ask students what the most important part of the story was for them, and why. Provide details and support their opinions with information from the story.



Writing Activity: Write a final chapter of the book from Cecile’s perspective.  How might she be feeling about her daughters heading back home? What other thoughts might she be having? Base your writing off of Cecile’s characteristics from the book.


Additional Resources:

This teaching guide from HarperCollins provides discussion questions, information about the author, as well as extension activities to help students expand their comprehension of the novel.


Key Vocabulary:

Black Panther- a member of a militant African American organization (Black Panther Party) active in the 1960s and early 1970s, formed to work for the advancement of the rights of African Americans, often by radical means.

Excursion– a short trip or outing to some place, usually for a special purpose and with the intention of a prompt return

Exhibit- something that is offered or exposed to view; presented for inspection, placed on display

Gawk- to stare stupidly

Juvie- a secure prison or jail for persons under the age of majority*

Oppressed- to burden with cruel or unfair impositions or restraints; subject to a harsh exercise of authority or power

Rankle- to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment in

Sickle cell anemia- a blood disease passed down through family genes that usually occurs in African Americans. With this disease, blood cells are shaped differently than they should be, which causes many problems within the body.

Spectacle- anything presented to the sight or view.

Stucco- a finish on the outside of houses that is usually made of cement, sand, and lime mixed with water and applied when wet.

Wharf- a structure built on the shore that stretches out into the harbor or sea so that boats can be tied up (moored) and can rest or unload.

(All definitions obtained/modified from Dictionary.com and Wikipedia.com (*Juvie))

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