This book was the 2011 Coretta Scott King Award winner (This award was designed to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King and to honor his wife Coretta Scott King; given annually to one black author and to one black illustrator whose books are outstanding, inspirational, and educational contributions to literature for children and young people) a Newbery Honor book for 2011, a National Book Award finalist, AND the winner of the Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction. WOWSA. No wonder I loved it!
The story is set in 1968 and is about three young African American girls, sisters. They live with their father and grandmother, as their mother left when the youngest was just a baby. However, their father gets a job where he can't be at home, so he sends the three girls off to their mother for the summer in Oakland, California. The girls are set for it to be an adventure in the sunshine with trips to Disneyland and the ocean and finding out more about their mother. Their mother, not so much. She's not really interested in having the kids there, and she often makes remarks like, "I never asked for this," or "I never wanted this."
Every morning she sends them off to the Black Panther camp down the street where they get a free breakfast and get to do some activities, all related to the Black Panther movement. The Black Panthers were initially formed to protect local communities from police brutality and racism. The group also ran medical clinics and provided free food to school children. Within a couple of years the Black Panthers in Oakland were feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school. Unfortunately, the Black Panthers were sometimes involved in violence. The oldest girl, Delphine, knows some things about the Black Panthers and about some of the violent incidents. She becomes fearful and doesn't want to take her sisters to the center anymore. Her mother doesn't care what Delphine wants and insists they return.
Th story is told in Delphine's voice which is strong, clear, and often dryly funny. her perspective changes over the course of the summer, and she comes to some surprising conclusions about her mother, her sisters, the Black Panthers and even herself. It's a poignant story with incredible writing, strong characters and interesting historical information.
Highly recommended. Available at the Multnomah County library now and available in the WOMS library soon.