Tag Archives: Coretta Scott King

One Crazy Summer – Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer

WoW!  It’s been a great day’s reading…It feels like a privilege to have read this book, set in Oakland, California in 1968.  This is the time of the Blank Panthers, Sit-ins, Martin Luther King and Delpine, the eleven year old protagonist is struggling to come to terms with a mother who abandoned her and her two sisters, and who reluctantly has them to stay for a month over summer.  She is also struggling over what it means to be who she is – coloured or black, suppressed or oppressed, and how to deal with that.

Delphine is only eleven, but she is the mother that her mother is not.  She looks after her two little sisters, Vonetta and Fern with a determined resilience that is just too sad, and yet so powerful.  One Crazy Summer the girls are sent to live with their mother for a month.  Their mother that they have not seen since she walked out on them after Fern was born.  Delphine believes she left them because of an argument over Fern’s name.

In NZ the fern is a powerful image of new life and potential, symbolised by the koru.  New unfurling life, strength, potential and peace.  This feels right for the book.  That the name Cecile wanted to call Fern means mercy and protection, is also right for the story.

For me, while Delphine was a powerful storyteller, and she carried the storyline with a real dignity and truth, Cecile was the story.  Her poetry rocked!  As did Fern’s.  Strangely, while Cecile’s poem was about being the mother of the nation, Delphine symbolised and lived the self-restraint and subsuming of self that brings to mind oppression.  Delphine was the mother to her mother, the mother earth.  Cecile was the game changer, the rebellious, obstinant, bruised child.  Delphine has the strength to see many perspectives, and allow difference – to respect the different pathways to freedom.  And her strength means she can help it to happen.

This beautiful, upside down book does not resolve everything.  But it shows a pathway to understanding hurt and anger, deprivation and resilience that is ultimately hopeful, if not perfect.

I really felt that this book was not SET in the time, but OF the time.  The little touches didn’t feel forced, they felt true…I loved Delphine’s Timex watch, and the shows on TV, the music, and just so much else about this book.

I’m off to read more books by this author…

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Filed under Children 12+, Prize winners, Uncategorized

Bud, Not Buddy – Christopher Paul Curtis

Bud not Buddy

Bud, Not Buddy – Christopher Paul Curtis Anyone who knows me at all, knows that this is one of my all time favourite books. I love Bud’s positivity, his energy and his curiosity. This story is set in 1936 Flint, Michigan, USA, during the Great Depression. Bud’s Mama died when he was 6 years old. He spent some years in foster homes, but at the beginning of this book is sent to live with the Amos family. Toddy Amos and Bud fight, in a surprisingly hilarious chapter, which leads to one of my favourite moments in the book – when Bud is certain he has encountered a vampire bat…you REALLY have to read the book. Bud runs away, determined to find his father. He has only a few little clues that his mother left him – some rocks with strange numbers on them, and a flyer with Jazz musicians on it. Bud is certain his father is the great Herman E Calloway. This might seem a big logical jump, but as Bud explains it, “The little idea had gone and sneaked itself into being a mighty maple tree tall enough that if I looked at the top of it I would get a crick in my neck, big enough for me to hang a climbing rope in, strong enough that I made up my mind to walk clean across the state of Michigan.” (Chapter 9). The cast of characters Bud meets on his way to find his father are entertaining and thought provoking. This book won the 2000 Newbery Medal, and Christopher Paul Curtis won the 2000 Coretta Scott King Award.

Christopher Paul Curtis Curtis was born in Flint, Michigan on May 10, 1953 to Dr. Herman Elmer Curtis, a chiropodist, and Leslie Jane Curtis, an educator. The city of Flint plays an important role in many of Curtis’s books. One such example is Bucking the Sarge, which is about a fifteen year old boy named Luther T. Ferrel, who is in a running battle with his slum-lord mother. Curtis is an alumnus of the University of Michigan-Flint.

Christopher modeled characters in Bud, Not Buddy after his two grandfathers—Earl “Lefty” Lewis, a Negro league baseball pitcher, and 1930s bandleader Herman E. Curtis, Sr., of Herman Curtis and the Dusky Devastators of the Depression.

Curtis moved to Detroit, Michigan in January, 2009.

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Filed under Children 10+, Children 12+, Classics, humour

Monster – Walter Dean Myers


Written as a movie script, this book covers the trial of James King and Steve Harmon for the felony murder of a drugstore owner. King is accused of pulling the trigger and Harmon of being the lookout. As the trial proceeds, Steve takes notes in script style, being a keen and talented film club member.

Much of the story explores what truth is – who is telling the truth, what are their motivations, how fallible is their memory, what agenda lies behind the truth being told. Great questions. Steve reflects in jail, ‘we lie to ourselves here. Maybe we are here because we lie to ourselves.’

The line that really stuck with me, though, was from Mr Sawicki to the film club, about fancy camera shots, ‘There are a lot of things you can do with film, but you don’t have an unlimited access to your audience. In other words, keep it simple. You tell the story; you don’t look for the camera technician to tell the story for you. When you see a film maker getting too fancy, you can bet he’s worried either about his story or his ability to tell it.’

The film script is a clever device – using point of view metaphorically and ‘literally’ to position the viewer/reader. The quote above resonates – without wanting to give anything away – especially at the end.

I would think that most teenagers would find something fascinating in this book, and it should be a part of the core curriculum…there are so many things that are clever and thought provoking – especially morally, technically, legally, ethically, creatively, cinematically…

If you loved To Kill a Mockingbird; The Outsiders; That Was Then, This is Now… the list could go on
Highly recommended for 14+.
Everyone should read this book.

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Filed under Uncategorized, YA 14+