Jonathan tempered his enthusiasm for this title just slightly by noting that his appreciation for the author may be a bias. The fact that the book is set in my hometown may be my bias.
But I think it’s undeniable that One Crazy Summer excells in voice and character. I especially appreciate the complexity of the mother, and how 11-year old Delphine reflects on it to come realistically to her own beginning-of-coming-of-age. In her Goodreads review, Roxanne Feldman notes the “quiet power” of this book and I concur…and think it attests to the writer’s skill. I don’t notice the writer’s hand in the voice of this story, the way I do in equally-but-differently-well-done contenders. In that way, it’s the CLAUDETTE COLVIN of this year: so well presented by the author that the author disappears.
If you frequent Goodreads, you’ll have already noted my quibbles with the slightly-off geography in this story. First I noted that there is no Orchard street currently in Oakland. After some research in the Oakland History Room, it seems like Orchard disappeared at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries to become 30th street. This would place the characters near the old North Oakland (or, at times, Jack London) branch of the library system, and in the center of the Black Panther activity. (There’s a chance that “Orchard” remained in the neighborhood vernacular of course…though I pored through our files of flyers from that library branch from that time and couldn’t find a reference to it. Only 30th street. I’d be really thrilled to find out from someone that I’m wrong on this) . This, really, is minor, but the geography caught up with me in the go-kart scence, since the West/North Oakland flats where this story takes place are called “flats” for a reason. No hills. At all. Unless the characters walked a mile across several major avenues to Pill Hill (so called b/c it’s populated by the medical profession). But while they could walk this distance in the perpindicular directions and never “leave” their neighborhood (starting from Magnolia and 30th, they would have walked a mile in a different direction to get to DeFremery park for the rally), the crossing to Pill Hill would have been a notable event.
However, after talking to a lot of other readers, I’m fairly convinced that this doesn’t negatively impact the power of the story. It’s just a local bummer, as we don’t get a lot of major children’s books set in Oakland. But given that my potential geographical bias negates itself over this issue, I feel confident in saying this is worthy of the Newbery committee’s attention.