Reviews for P.S. Be Eleven

Booklist Reviews 2013 February #2
*Starred Review* The Gaither sisters--Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern--are newly returned from a summer spent in California with their mother, Cecile, and the Black Panthers (One Crazy Summer, 2010). But life in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, with Big Ma and Pa is nothing like the freedom of Oakland, even if the girls carry back independent streaks. And while their summer may have been crazy, autumn is not exactly tame: Pa's wearing cologne and whistling now that he has a girlfriend; Uncle Darnell's back from Vietnam but sleeps a lot; and sixth grade has a new Zambian exchange teacher, Mr. Mwilla. Delphine speaks her worried mind in letters to Cecile, who always adds a postscript, reminding Delphine to "Be Eleven" and not a grown-up. (This makes for a nice recurring sentiment, if a somewhat clunky title.) Set against the tumultuous, yet vibrant, backdrop of the late 1960s--as Nixon campaigns against Humphrey and the Jackson Five are poised to play Madison Square Garden--the story is vividly narrated by Delphine, who reluctantly learns to ease control over her sisters and comes to a tough realization: "Twelve makes you know better than to wish for things that only eleven would wish hard for." Even without the dynamic Black Panther characters, this soars as a finely drawn portrait of a family in flux and as a memorable slice of a specific time in our nation's history. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Williams-Garcia's One Crazy Summer (2010) won the Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award finalist. A robust marketing campaign includes author appearances. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Delphine and her sisters have returned from their mother's (One Crazy Summer), but home in Bedford-Stuyvesant has become tricky. Pa has a new "lady friend"; their uncle returns from Vietnam greatly changed; and Delphine's sisters have learned to stand up for themselves. Williams-Garcia brilliantly gets to the very heart of Delphine and each of her family members, creating complex, engaging, and nuanced characters.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #3
Against Big Ma's objections, in One Crazy Summer (rev. 3/10) Delphine and her sisters Vonetta and Fern flew off to Oakland to get to know their mother, Cecile, and learned about the Black Panthers. Here, they've returned, and before they even get home to Bedford-Stuyvesant, they outrage Big Ma, making a "grand Negro spectacle" of themselves at the airport by refusing to be invisible and docile. For Delphine, this new stage of life is tricky to maneuver. Pa is suddenly happy, with a new "lady friend"; their uncle returns from Vietnam but seems greatly changed; and her sisters have learned to stand up for themselves, refusing to let Delphine take charge in her usual way. She tries to better understand why her parents never married, but Cecile sets her straight in letters, establishing boundaries ("My feelings about your father are mine. They are not feelings that can be understood by a young girl") and reminding her repeatedly to "be eleven." Williams-Garcia evokes the late-sixties time period perfectly with word choices ("right on!"), clothing details (Delphine longs for bell-bottoms), and other specific references, especially the instant, passionate devotion the [Sat Apr 30 09:16:20 2016] Wide character in print at E:\websites\aquabrowser\IMCPL\app\site\ line 249. sisters feel toward the Jackson Five. And as in the multi-medaled previous book, she brilliantly gets to the very heart of Delphine and each of her family members and friends, using Delphine's keen perceptions ("Big Ma put a smile over her real face...") to create complex, engaging, and nuanced characters. Funny, wise, poignant, and thought-provoking, this will leave readers wanting more about Delphine and her sisters. susan dove lempke

Kirkus Reviews 2013 March #2
Readers will cheer the return of the three sisters who captured hearts in the Newbery Honor–winning One Crazy Summer (2010). The sequel finds sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern returning to their Brooklyn home, full of excitement about visiting their mother in Oakland, Calif. The girls, especially Delphine, are also eager to begin a new school year. However, home is a little different: Their father has a girlfriend, the teacher Delphine had been eagerly expecting has exchanged places with one from Zambia, and their beloved Uncle Darnell is returning home from Vietnam. But their favorite singing group, the Jackson Five, is coming to town, too. With the help of their father's girlfriend, Miss Hendrix, the girls set out to save to attend the concert. Through all of their experiences, Delphine uses her new connection with her mother to understand things, questioning, challenging and reaching for a mother's guidance. Whenever she pushes a bit too hard, Cecile's tart, repeated advice to "be eleven"--even when she turns 12--resonates. Williams-Garcia's skilled writing takes readers to a deeper understanding of Delphine as she grows up and is forced to watch her family take a new shape. Disappointments are not glossed over, even when they involve heartbreaking betrayal. This thoughtful story, told with humor and heart, rings with the rhythms and the dilemmas of the '60s through characters real enough to touch. (Historical fiction. 9-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 April #3

Delphine and her sisters return to Brooklyn from visiting their estranged mother, Cecile, a poet who sent them off every day to a camp run by the Black Panthers in Williams-Garcia's Newbery Honor-winning One Crazy Summer. It wasn't the California vacation they expected, but the experience rocked their world. Big Ma, their grandmother, is no longer just a stern taskmaster, she's an oppressor. Delphine, who again narrates, loses interest in magazines like Tiger Beat and Seventeen: "When there's Afros and black faces on the cover, I'll buy one," she tells a storeowner. Reflecting society at large in 1968, change and conflict have the Gaither household in upheaval: Pa has a new girlfriend, Uncle Darnell returns from Vietnam a damaged young man, and the sixth-grade teacher Delphine hoped to get has been replaced by a man from Zambia. Though the plot involves more quotidian events than the first book, the Gaither sisters are an irresistible trio. Williams-Garcia excels at conveying defining moments of American society from their point of view--this is historical fiction that's as full of heart as it is of heartbreak. Ages 8-12. (June)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 June

Gr 4-7--After their life-changing summer in Oakland with their poet-activist mother, related in One Crazy Summer (HarperCollins, 2010), sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern find it difficult to readjust to life in Brooklyn. In addition to their grandmother's strict expectations, the girls must navigate the return of their uncle from Vietnam, their father's new romantic relationship, and their own uncontrollable love for the Jackson Five. Delphine finds some solace in corresponding with her mother, who reminds her not to take on too much or try to grow up too fast; instead she should remember to be 11. But each adult in Delphine's life has a different idea of what that means. Over the course of the book, Delphine strives to balance these conflicting perspectives and to articulate her own beliefs. From the very start of the story, her well-realized voice pulls readers into her rapidly changing world. Williams-Garcia ably integrates historical information with Delphine's story. Even secondary characters are complex and her nuanced understanding of the 1960s brings the setting to life. P.S. Be Eleven is a must-read for fans of the first book, but it can also stand alone as an engrossing novel that will leave readers pondering important issues of race, gender, and identity.--Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR

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