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Gone Crazy in Alabama

by Rita Williams Garcia

Book list *Starred Review* Readers of One Crazy Summer (2010) and P.S. Be Eleven (2013) have spent quality time with the Gaither sisters, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, in both Brooklyn and Oakland. Now, in this final installment of the trilogy, the girls are Alabama-bound to visit with grandmother Big Ma and the rest of the kin. By now, the girls know that family can mean entanglements the saga of the Gaither-Trotter clans is nothing but knots and two of the folks involved are happy to keep the families squabbling: the girls' great-grandmother, Ma Charles, and Ma Charles' sister across the creek, Great-Aunt Trotter. The trouble began when the greats were girls of the same age and discovered that they shared a father. Now they trade eggs and milk, but mostly barbs, and when the Gaither sisters hit the Alabama countryside, the ladies have three new go-betweens, especially the overacting Vonetta, who takes great satisfaction in delivering the messages with uncanny mimicry, stirring the pot to a boil. And there is more family trouble brewing. Big Ma's contempt for the girls' mother, Cecile, hasn't diminished, and she's not particularly fond of their stepmother, who's pregnant with her fourth grandchild. Vonetta has not forgiven her uncle Darnell, who stole her Jackson Five concert money in the previous book (though he's cleaned up his act), and the sniping and one-upmanship between the girls continues to be well tuned and well timed. It's not until a near tragedy occurs that the family sees that the strands that weave them together can make them stronger just as easily as they can pull them apart. Family also comes into the story through Williams-Garcia's aim to explain the complex intertwined tree of southerners African Americans, whites, and Native Americans of which the Gaither-Trotter clan is a representative example. Some readers will certainly be unsettled by the story of the greats' grandfather, who escaped slavery, was taken in by a Creek tribe, and married a Creek woman. by whom he had 11 children, only to be sold off (along with some of his children) by his in-laws. Even more puzzling to youngsters will be the character of the town's sheriff, another Charles, who is law officer by day, Klansman by night and yet still calls Ma Charles by the endearment Mama. This element could have used more explanation, but throughout the series, Williams-Garcia (rather like Cecile with her daughters) has always steered far clear of condescending to her readers. Whether the subject at hand is the Black Panthers, the Vietnam War, or race relations, she always tells her very human story; and then, how much more deeply readers want to delve into the story's current or historical events is up to them. At the heart of all this family interaction remain the Gaither girls. Narrator Delphine, almost 13, still feels the responsibility of being the oldest, but now her challenge is to loosen the reins on sisters who are also getting older and coming more deeply into their own selves. Her narrator's voice continues to be strong and true. Here we see where she gets it: from a great-grandmother and great-aunt who sit on their porches and tell stories that patch together triumphs, heartaches, and family history, and from Cecile, one of the most unique mothers in children's literature, who is tied to her own truth and tells it, whatever the consequences. If this is good-bye to Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, it's a worthy one, though readers would hardly mind if, in the words of the relatives' Southern good-bye, they would see the girls again, real soon. --Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 4-6-In this final volume in the trilogy that began with the acclaimed One Crazy Summer (2010), and continued with P.S. Be Eleven (2013, both HarperCollins), sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern Gaither have been sent for the summer from Brooklyn to rural Alabama to reunite with their grandmother, Big Ma; their great-grandmother, Ma Charles; and their Uncle Darnell, a Vietnam vet recovering from drug addiction. Caught in the middle of a family feud between Ma Charles and her half-sister, Miss Trotter, the girls grapple with mixed feelings and new revelations about their family and its history. Narrator Delphine, 12, is charged with keeping her sisters in line and keeping the peace amidst their constant bickering, as well as readjusting to Big Ma's discipline. When Vonetta disappears during a tornado, Delphine must confront her guilt and resentment as well as face her mother, Cecile, who has traveled from California in concern for her missing daughter. Much of the narrative includes backstory from the previous titles, which is important for context, though new readers will want to read the previous books to fully appreciate this novel. This final installment is rich in atmosphere and clearly conveys the sisters' distinct personalities, their loyalty to one another, and their special place in their complex family. An author's note elucidates the connection between Native and African Americans, and a family tree details the Gaither girls' roots. VERDICT A must-have conclusion to this beloved middle grade series.-Marie Orlando, formerly at Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.