Wednesday, September 25, 2013

P.S. Be Eleven - Rita Williams-Garcia

Title: P.S. Be Eleven
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Publisher: Amistad (Harper Collins), 2013 (Hardcover)
Length: 274 pages
Genre: Children's Historical Fiction
Started: September 23, 2013
Finished: September 24, 2013

From the inside cover:

Things are changing in the Gaither household. After soaking up a "power to the people" mind-set over the summer, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern return to Brooklyn with a newfound streak of independence. Pa has a girlfriend, Uncle Darnell is home from Vietnam, but he's not the same. And a new singing group called the Jackson Five has the girls seeing stars.

But one thing that doesn't change? Big Ma still expects Delphine to keep everything together. That's even harder now that her sisters refuse to be bossed around, and now that Pa's girlfriend voices her own opinions about things. Through letters, Delphine confides in her mother, who reminds her not to grow up too fast. To be eleven while she can.

An outstanding successor to the Newbery Honor Book One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven stands on it's own as a moving, funny story of three sisters growing up amid the radical change of the 1960s, beautifully written by the inimitable Rita Williams-Garcia.

I read One Crazy Summer a few years ago and loved it mainly because of Delphine's narration. P.S. Be Eleven is the sequel and picks up immediately after the first book ended, in the summer of 1968 with the girls on the plane back home to Brooklyn from California after visiting Cecile. More independent and with a sense of standing up to injustice, they're less likely to take the usual treatment from Big Ma, from everything from choice of school clothes to liking the Jackson Five.

Their Dad makes the quick moves by meeting and proposing to a woman while the girls were gone, which Delphine isn't impressed with but eventually becomes neutral about. The girls are mostly concerned with school and saving money to pay for half the cost of tickets to see the Jackson Five at Madison Square Gardens. Delphine regularly writes to Cecile, who although is still a very hands-off mother, manages to give her some decent advice about savouring her childhood and taking her time about tackling more grown-up issues. There's also a nice commentary on returning war veterans with Uncle Darnell, who returns from Vietnam alive but has constant nightmares and develops a drug problem.

The writing is amazing, Delphine's voice and narration makes the book yet again, and is a nice piece of historical fiction about growing up in the late 1960s.

Thoughts on the cover:
The original book's cover got a redesign after it accumulated so many awards, and the sequel cover is done in a similar style. I love the image of the girls playing Double Dutch on the street in front of the brownstones all wearing bellbottoms (even though Big Ma won't let them wear them in the book). Plus the colours are awesome.

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