This month’s book for my three-year Scott O’Dell Award Challenge is the 2011 winner, One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia.
In this middle-grade novel, set in 1968, 11-year-old Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonette and Fern, are sent by their father from Brooklyn to Oakland, Calif., to get to know the mother who had abandoned them years earlier. While in Oakland, Delphine becomes involved in the Black Panther movement and begins to understand her mother.
Summer 1968–The sisters are sent to Oakland the summer of 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated April 4 in Tennessee. But two days later, a 17-year-old unarmed black boy named Bobby Hutton was killed by the police in Oakland, CA. Hutton was a member of the Black Panther Party. In fact, he was the treasurer and the party’s first recruit. His murder sparked rallies by the Black Panthers in Oakland that summer. The Oakland rally organizers also sought the release from prison from one of the Black Panther leaders, Huey P. Newton.
A series–Often historical fiction books are stand-alones. They do not always have a sequel, and even fewer are part of a series, featuring a sequential story with the same characters. One Crazy Summer did have a resolution and could be a stand-alone book.
But, there are so many questions about Delphine’s parents that are left unanswered, it left me unsatisfied. However, I knew there are two books following One Crazy Summer–P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama. So, I have hope my questions will be answered.
How does an author write a self-contained story, yet set up a larger story that will not be completed until the end of a trilogy–or an even longer series?
The first book is the set up. We are introduced to the characters and some of their deep desires and questions. While a few questions are answered, many are not.
That can be hard for authors. We want to reveal all we know about our characters, but it will hold our readers’ attention if we don’t tell them everything we think they should know. We need to keep some secrets and not reveal them until it’s absolutely necessary. However, we do have to plant some hints along the way so the reveals make sense.
I don’t know if Williams-Garcia knew she’d have a couple sequels, but she did a good job of withholding information that I wanted to know until I needed to know it.
For more info:
Join me Feb. 23 to talk about this year’s Scott O’Dell Award winner, The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz.
Do you have favorite kids books about the Civil Rights or Black Panther movements? What other stand-alone (at this point) books beg for a sequel?