One Crazy Summer

by Rita Williams-Garcia

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What is the tone of the book One Crazy Summer?

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The tone of Rita Williams-Garcia's One Crazy Summer is practical, honest, humorous, and a bit cynical. The novel is narrated in the first person by eleven-year-old Delphine, who tells the story of the summer she and her sisters spend with their mother, Cecile, in an entertaining and eye-opening fashion.

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Rita Williams-Garcia's novel One Crazy Summer is narrated in the first person by Delphine, an eleven-year-old girl who is wise beyond her years and sees the world through a practical, honest, darkly humorous, and somewhat cynical lens. This is the tone the novel adopts.

Let's look at some examples. As the novel opens, Delphine and her two sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are on an airplane flying out to California to visit Cecile, their mother who had abandoned them several years before. The flight is rough with turbulence, and Delphine notes that the clouds were giving their Boeing 727 one “Cassius Clay-left-and-a-right job” after another. Note the humor and wisdom here. Delphine is frightened, but she doesn't dare show it to her sisters, even though she admits it to readers. “I kept my whimper to myself,” she explains, even though her fear is enough to make her insides squeeze “like a monkey grinder's accordion.” Instead of showing it, she makes up a story to get her younger sisters through their panic. She does not want them to make a scene on the plane, a scenario Big Ma (the girls' grandmother) has warned her against.

Delphine then flashes back to her Pa and Big Ma leaving the girls off at the airport. She notes that “Pa had tried to act like he was dropping off three sacks of wash at the Laundromat,” but Delphine is not at all fooled. The girl also admits that she has not forgiven Cecile and that she plays her memories “like projector slides in the dark.”

Delphine continues her tone throughout the novel. When she finally decides that she will cook some real meals for her mother and sisters, for instance, she notes with a somewhat sarcastic practicality, “I was glad Cecile handed over the money without fuss or questions. That saved me from lying.” Delphine tells it like it is. She even admits that as she goes into the kitchen to cook, she feels like “a scared dummy holding a bag of groceries.” Yet she stands her ground and makes their supper.

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