Time to sneak in another midweek review. This one is the third in a series about three Brooklyn sisters, age 12, 10, and 8 set in 1969. Their father and stepmother send them to visit relatives in Alabama. It may be just my recent reading choices this year, but it seems to be a lot of MG books set in the South. Maybe it’s because of the wide variety of interesting characters found in those states.
I was first introduced to this family five years ago in the memorable ONE CRAZY SUMMER. I missed the next offering in the triad with P.S. BE ELEVEN, and went right to this supposedly final story. If you have no prior history with the series and want to jump into GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA, it stands on its own with enough back story thrown in to bring you up to date.
To me this third book is one that teachers, librarians, and parents would adore. Ten and eleven year olds? Probably not as much. Most of this story centers around the differences between two great grandparents who are also sisters. It’s ripe with family problems best appreciated by those of us with a few miles under our belts. I’d recommend younger readers begin with the first book and if hooked then continue with the other two.
1969 was a curious year in our history, and its all brought forth through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest of the girls. It’s funny, sad, and revealing how friendships and family ties often never stay that way. You’ll be enriched by the beautifully written story, especially if you spot similarities to one or two of your own family members.
PUBLICATION DATE:2015 WORD COUNT: 59,159 READING LEVEL: 4.5
FULL PLOT (From Amazon):
Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of the Gaither sisters, who are about to learn what it’s like to be fish out of water as they travel from the streets of Brooklyn to the rural South for the summer of a lifetime.
Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother, Big Ma, and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles’s half sister, Miss Trotter. The two half sisters haven’t spoken in years. As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that’s been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible.
FIVE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA by Rita Williams-Garcia
- The historical references are engaging to read. From the Black Panthers movement to the Klan; From Ted Kennedy’s problems to the first man on the moon. All are like a movie running in the background of the story.
- Sibling squabbles from the adults and the three children are portrayed with humor and sadness. Anyone who has grown up in a large family will understand.
- Not one perfect character. They each have their faults that are gloriously woven into the story.
- Our racial history is powerfully portrayed here. More than once I found myself shifting uncomfortably with the true words coming off the pages.
- I only glanced at the family tree at the back of the book before beginning to read. After finishing the 289 pages, I went back to that tree and retraced the memory of learning about this family. A very handy addition.
A SCENE THAT STAYED WITH ME: To Vonetta, he said, “Don’t go grinning at every white kid trying to make friends. Stick to your own and you won’t have any problems. If they call you a name, keep your mouth shut and walk away.”
QUOTE FROM AUTHOR: “I was born in Queens, N.Y, on April 13, 1957. My mother, Miss Essie, named me ‘NoMo’ immediately after my birth. Although I was her last child, I took my time making my appearance. I like to believe I was dreaming up a good story and wouldn’t budge until I was finished. Even now, my daughters call me ‘Pokey Mom’, because I slow poke around when they want to go-go-go.” Rita’s Web Site
Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.