It’s the summer of 1968. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern have been sent to Oakland to meet their mother, who left the family just after Fern was born. It’s a tense time for the world, a tense time for African-Americans, and a tense time for the three girls, who are leaving the safety of their father and grandmother to meet the mother they never really knew.
Delphine and her sisters are a nice example of a family story. Here, while the adults have not managed to stay together, the sisters have. Despite any number of fights, they are unquestioning in their love and support for each other. They can also back each other up, without even discussing it. They do this a lot in the book, and the chorus their words make reinforces the point: even if Cecile is not who they are expecting, they have each other. Which isn’t to say that they don’t have their fraught moments.
I loved Delphine. I loved her voice, which is fresh and funny in some places and thoughtful in others. I just opened it to a random page and found this: “Vonetta was a perfectionist, but only about certain things. Things that would get her noticed or earn her applause. Big Ma said Vonetta wouldn’t be such a show-off if Cecile had picked Vonetta up more when she was a baby hollering in her crib. I didn’t need a flash of memory to recall Vonetta’s crying. She cried loudly and a lot.”
Delphine is also such an oldest child. I’m one myself and I could totally recognize the kind of responsible-for-the-world reaction that Delphine has. As an oldest child, I felt a lot of sympathy for her struggles. 🙂
Williams-Garcia really managed to illuminate a group (the Black Panthers) and time in history without once feeling preachy or overly pointed. This is mostly because her characters are actual people, not cardboard heroes or villains. Nor are they talking points for modern politics. They’re complex people in a complex time and Williams-Garcia refuses to water them down or simplify them. I really appreciated that.
Book source: public library
Book information: Amistad (HarperCollins), 2010; middle grade