Tuesday, February 20, 2018

#ReadSoulLit Day 20: Middle Grade

My middle grade feature is the well known Gaither Sisters series written by Rita Williams-Garcia. I don't usually look into many children's books, but this series caught my eye and I needed to pick them up. I am the oldest of three daughters, so whenever I see a book that features three sisters I am automatically drawn to them. I've been lucky enough to find books one and three of the series in second hand stores and I have my eye out for book two. Yes, I am at the age where I am thinking of collecting books for future grandchildren that I hope to not have for many years since my own girls are barely adults! If you haven't seen this series please check it out. These books are so well done with stories that are complex and relatable. 

You can check out the book talk with Williams-Garcia below.

What they are about:

Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past. 

When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education. 

Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, One Crazy Summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls in search of the mother who abandoned them-an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia.

In this exquisite sequel to the New York Times bestseller One Crazy Summer, the Gaither sisters return to Brooklyn and find that changes large and small have come to their home.

After spending the summer in Oakland with their mother and the Black Panthers, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern arrive home with a newfound streak of independence, and the sisters aren't the only ones who have changed. Now Pa has a girlfriend. Uncle Darnell returns from Vietnam a different man. But Big Ma still expects Delphine to keep her sisters in line. That's much harder now that Vonetta and Fern refuse to be bossed around. Besides her sisters, Delphine's got plenty of other things to worry about-like starting sixth grade, being the tallest girl in her class, and dreading the upcoming school dance (her first). The one person she confides in is her mother, Cecile. Through letters, Delphine pours her heart out and receives some constant advice: to be eleven while she can.

The sequel to the Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winner One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven stands on its own as a funny, moving story of three sisters coming of age in the turbulent 1960s. 

The Coretta Scott King Award–winning Gone Crazy in Alabama by Newbery Honor and New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of the Gaither sisters 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.

Powerful and humorous, this companion to the award-winning One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven will be enjoyed by fans of the first two books, as well as by readers meeting these memorable sisters for the first time. 

About the Author:

Photo via Goodreads and bio from Williams-Garcia website)

Rita Williams-Garcia is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels for young adults and middle grade readers.  Her most recent novel, Gone Crazy in Alabama ends the saga of the Gaither Sisters, who appear in One Crazy Summer and PS Be Eleven.  Her novels have been recipients of numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award, National Book Award Finalists, Newbery Honor Book, Junior Library Guild, and the Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction.  She served on faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children MFA Program and she resides in Queens, New York.   
I always asked for a pencil and paper in kindergarten while my classmates colored pictures. By twelve, I was sending short stories to magazines only to be politely rejected. My family had just moved back to Jamaica, New York after a short stint in Georgia, and before that, California. My sister, brother and I weren’t allowed to play outside in Queens, New York, so I entertained myself by writing stories. I sold my first short story to Highlights Magazine at 14, and sold another to Essence magazine six years later while a student at Hofstra. It was at Hofstra that I studied with authors Richard Price and Sonia Pilcer. The character Joyce (originally named Tawanda) in BLUE TIGHTS grew out of a character sketch from my Hofstra days.

BLUE TIGHTS was eventually published in the late eighties when I was thirty.  It was so important to me tell this story about a girl with great talent but low self-esteem.  I had seen so many “Joyces” but not enough books to tell their story.  It took seven years and many typewritten drafts to get this novel right. Decades later, BLUE TIGHTS can still be found in libraries.  I like to encourage aspiring writers and young readers to follow their dreams, even in the face of rejection or many, many retries.  Follow your dreams anyway!  You learn so much with each and every try.

One of the best parts of having my writing dreams come true is meeting my readers!  I’m not a big fan of flying, but meeting my readers makes it all worthwhile.  I’m always amazed by their classwork based on the books, their comments and questions.    

My writing life is simple.  I daydream, observe, listen to music, read, research, love art and I move. I never know what will strike me as an idea or when it will come.  With ONE CRAZY SUMMER, it was the image of kids involved with the Black Panther movement of the 1960s.   With BOTTLE CAP BOYS it was children dancing in the streets of New Orleans.  I try to stay open to images and ideas.  I like being excited by the story I’m dying to write.

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