Wednesday, June 26, 2013

P.S. Be Eleven, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Delphine, Vonetta and Fern are on their way back to Brooklyn from Oakland where they have spent the last little while getting to know their mother, Cecile.  Delivered unceremoniously back into the arms and admonishments of Big Ma, and back to Herkimer Street and Pa, Delphine knows that she has changed, but she surely didn't expect things in Brooklyn to have changed as well.

First off, Pa has lost his long face.  He's whistling Tempations songs, instead of Old Man River.  Right off, he wants to have a conversation with the girls, but Big Ma beats him to it. "Your Pa is keeping company with a woman in Brownsville." (p. 36)  Marva Hendrix is her name, and while Vonetta and Fern think this is fine and silly, Delphine is not so sure.

Next, Uncle Darnell is back from Vietnam.  But he isn't the same either.  The old Uncle D would be smiling and singing and laughing, but now, he seems distant and sick.  He wakes up shouting and isn't so interested in his nieces. 

Readers follow Delphine's journey into sixth grade as she navigates a changing family, grows her friendships, and figures out how to have a relationship with her distant mother.  P.S. Be Eleven is simply a joy to read.  Each character is here for a reason and adds to the story.  Delphine's voice is so perfect as are the voices of those around her.  Williams-Garcia paints a picture of Bed-Stuy in the 1960s, and she weaves the historical details in seamlessly.  This book seems timeless and should be on everyone's must read list!