Monday, December 9, 2013

Book of the Week

P.S. Be Eleven

by Rita Williams-Garcia

Published by Amistad / HarperCollins, 2013
274 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-193862-7

Ages 9-12

Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are back in Brooklyn after spending the summer of 1968 with their mother Cecile in Oakland (One Crazy Summer, Amistad / HarperCollins, 2010), and dramatic changes are in store. First, Pa has a girlfriend, Miss Marva Hendrix. Then Delphine starts sixth grade expecting to have Miss Honeywell, the most mod of teachers. Instead, she gets Mr. Mwila, on an exchange program from Zambia. And a new group—five singing and dancing brothers named Jackson—have the sisters and the nation mesmerized. When Miss Marva Hendrix offers to take them to see the Jackson 5 at Madison Square Garden, Pa insists they earn half the money for tickets, and Delphine assumes she’ll be in charge, like always. Miss Marva Hendrix appoints Vonetta to manage their earnings. Delphine predicts disaster. Vonetta doesn’t fail. Uncle Darrell comes home from Vietnam, but elation turns to worry when he struggles with drugs. It’s so disturbing that Big Ma, always dependable if demanding, begins to falter. “Be eleven,” Cecile writes Delphine at the end of each letter. But she is eleven. What does her mother mean? What matters is that Delphine knows Cecile’s message is rooted in love, just like Big Ma’s home training. And now there is Miss Marva Hendrix, who thinks a woman could run for president someday, further expanding Delphine’s understanding of being young and Black and female. The modeling and mothering provided by all three of these women buoy Delphine and her sisters in ways they don’t always understand but surely feel. Rita Williams-Garcia once again captures time and place with sparkling clarity in an inspired look at childhood and growth and change. (MS) ©2013 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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