Rita Williams-Garcia wonderful book, One Crazy Summer, has been chosen to receive the FOCAL Award this year. (FOCAL, Friends of Children and Literature, is the support group for the children’s department at the Los Angeles Public Library.) This was my third year on the FOCAL award committee and I had the role of chair. Books that are considered for this award must have a California connection, and I must say I always learn more about my state after reading the books each year. This book gave me a new perspective on Oakland–a part-time home for me.
I had the pleasure of meeting Rita Williams-Garcia two years ago at the Judy Lopez Book Award dinner, when she received another of her many honors for this book. I look forward to meeting Rita Williams-Garcia again! The award will be presented at the annual FOCAL Award Luncheon held at the Border Grill in downtown Los Angeles (across from the public library) on December 7, 2013.
The luncheon will also honor the winners of the writing contest, children grades 3-8, who have read One Crazy Summer and written essays about it. Information about the contest will be on the FOCAL website soon. For a list of all the books that have won the FOCAL award, click here.
Teri Markson, who has previously been on the award committee, wrote an excellent review of the book for School Library Journal. Here it is:
School Library Journal (March 1, 2010)
Gr 4-7-It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poet who ran off years before and is living in Oakland. It's the summer after Black Panther founder Huey Newton was jailed and member Bobby Hutton was gunned down trying to surrender to the Oakland police, and there are men in berets shouting "Black Power" on the news. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe what her grandmother has said about her, that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that she can work on her poetry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way. Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading.-Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library