P.S. Be Eleven

288p. HarperCollins/Amistad. June 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-193862-7; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-193863-4; ebook $9.99. ISBN 978-0-06-220850-7.
RedReviewStarGr 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
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 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

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