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Saturday, June 22, 2013

P. S. Be Eleven, written by Rita Williams-Garcia. Harper, 2013. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"When Big Ma said "draft" she spoke about our cold house during the winter. When Uncle Darnell said "draft" he meant he was going into the army to fight the war. I knew out teacher wasn't talking about a cold house or the army. Still, it was a wonder Miss Merriam Webster kept everything straight in her dictionary."

I am so happy to see Delphine and her sisters now they are back home from their summer visit with their mother. In One Crazy Summer we met that mother, Cecile. Her life and their summer was a revelation to the girls and led them to meet some members of the Black Panthers while attending summer camp.

Home again, they must now digest the summer past and get back to living with Big Ma and their daddy. Big Ma can be very demanding and she likes to get her own way. After the freedom of the time spent in California, the girls are wanting more independence, especially Delphine. Her interests have changed and expanded, and she wants to do the same.

It's not an easy time for the family. We are allowed to see what life is like for them in 1968, a year that heralds conflict and big changes. Pa has a new girlfriend, now that he and their mother are divorced. Their Uncle Darnell has returned from the war in Vietnam a different person than the one who left. The Jackson Five are making waves in the music business, and on the television set in the Gaither household:

"Our television screen didn't seem big enough for all those Jacksons. Afros bopping, arms swinging and feet stepping and spinning in sync. And they wore wide bell-bottoms like crazy! The voices in the back were smooth and together. And the little boy singer let out his lungs like James Brown and Jackie Wilson rolled into one."

There are so many important historical events seen through the eyes of the Gaither girls. They are wonderful, well rounded characters with unique voices. Their hearts are large; so, too, is the heartbreak that encompasses them at times. It is wonderful to be with them again. As Delphine sends letters to her mother that allow her to pour out her heart full of worries and obligations, her mother reminds to 'be eleven'. Why? Delphine knows she is twelve....

"You're just a minute past twelve taking on Sweet Sixteen. Sixteen wasn't sweet on me, but I want yours to be nothing but sweetness, in time. Time turns always, Delphine. Don't push it."

A wonderful read from first word to last. You will not forget Delphine, Vonetta and Fern...their story is worth sharing!

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