Plot: Delphine’s mother abandonned her and her sisters shortly after the youngest, Fern, was born. Pa thinks the three girls should know their mother and sends them to Oakland to spend the summer with her. But when they arrive, they are not greeted with hugs but revolution. Oakland in the late 1960s is the center of the Black Panther movement and the girls have one crazy summer ahead of them.
The first thing I noticed when I received this book (many thanks to Rita Williams-Garcia, she was one of the most charming authors I met at BEA) was that there are enough awards to completely obscure the cover. The book deserves every one of them. Delphine is a charming narrator: intelligent and observant but with an 11 year old’s view of the world. Her complete selflessness broke my heart. Williams-Garcia writes beautifully; the story is fast-paced and engaging. She manages to perfectly evoke Oakland in the late 60s and the many varied people who lived there.
This is not truly a history of the Black Panthers, it is first and foremost the story of three girls who have had to learn to live without a mother’s love, but it is a fascinating glimpse of the movement from a child’s perspective. I learned a great deal from this book but what I learned was not so much facts and dates (though wikipedia helped me a bit with that); more than anything Williams-Garcia manages to put a human face on a very important moment in American history. She shows, rather than tells, why this revolution was necessary, how it affected their lives and she makes people, whatever their color, care.
The novel is intended for middle-grade readers but anyone can (and should) enjoy and learn from this lovely little book.
Challenges: Quirky Brown Reading Challenge (1), YA Historical Challenge (7)