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- ISBN-13: 9780061938627
- ISBN-10: 0061938629
- Publisher: Amistad Press
- Publish Date: May 2013
- Page Count: 274
- Reading Level: Ages 8-12
Series: Coretta Scott King Award - Author Winner Title(s)
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-04-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Delphine and her sisters return to Brooklyn from visiting their estranged mother, Cecile, a poet who sent them off every day to a camp run by the Black Panthers in Williams-Garcia’s Newbery Honor–winning One Crazy Summer. It wasn’t the California vacation they expected, but the experience rocked their world. Big Ma, their grandmother, is no longer just a stern taskmaster, she’s an oppressor. Delphine, who again narrates, loses interest in magazines like Tiger Beat and Seventeen: “When there’s Afros and black faces on the cover, I’ll buy one,” she tells a storeowner. Reflecting society at large in 1968, change and conflict have the Gaither household in upheaval: Pa has a new girlfriend, Uncle Darnell returns from Vietnam a damaged young man, and the sixth-grade teacher Delphine hoped to get has been replaced by a man from Zambia. Though the plot involves more quotidian events than the first book, the Gaither sisters are an irresistible trio. Williams-Garcia excels at conveying defining moments of American society from their point of view—this is historical fiction that’s as full of heart as it is of heartbreak. Ages 8–12. (June)
Growing up too fast in the '60s
When we last saw them, sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern were leaving Oakland after spending the summer with their mother. Now, in Rita Williams-Garcia’s P.S. Be Eleven, the sequel to the Newbery Honor-winning One Crazy Summer, we catch up with the Gaither sisters as they return to Brooklyn in 1968 and are reunited with Pa and Big Ma.
It doesn’t take long for the life lessons the sisters learned from their mother and the Black Panthers to clash mightily with the views of their grandmother, who wants to avoid creating a “grand Negro spectacle.” The oldest girl, Delphine, must find a way to live as her mother would want, while still respecting Pa and Big Ma, and keeping Vonetta and Fern out of trouble.
This balancing act becomes difficult very quickly. Soon after they arrive home, the sisters learn that their father is getting married. Vonetta and Fern love Miss Marva Hendricks right away, but Delphine wants to keep her distance. Adding to their struggle is Uncle Darnell, who returns home from the Vietnam War and lives with Pa, Big Ma and the girls as he fights his own internal battles. During all this, the girls stay in contact with their mother through letters—Delphine pouring out her heart, and her mother always ending her letters with a reminder to “Be Eleven.”
P.S. Be Eleven is a worthy successor to the unforgettable One Crazy Summer. The writing is just as powerful, and the story includes a convincing snapshot of the era, encompassing everything from the Civil Rights movement and Richard Nixon’s presidency to the beginnings of The Jackson 5. The story allows the girls to grow—learning new things, testing their ideals and discovering their true relationships with their mother and father, grandmother and many others. Williams-Garcia’s story offers a magnificent window into everyday life during the late 1960s and should not be missed.