Books by Rita Williams-Garcia

Released: May 9, 2017

"Strong characterizations and vivid musical scenes add layers to this warm family story. (Fiction. 8-12)"
An African-American youngster is happiest when he can play his harmonica with his bluesman grandfather until tragedy removes the music from his life. Read full book review >
BOTTLE CAP BOYS by Rita Williams-Garcia
Released: Oct. 15, 2015

"An important story that just doesn't quite come together. (Picture book. 3-6)"
The tale of two brothers who have a tip-top, tapping time on the streets of New Orleans. Read full book review >
GONE CRAZY IN ALABAMA by Rita Williams-Garcia
Released: April 21, 2015

"Rich in all areas, Delphine and her sisters' third outing will fully satisfy the many fans of their first two. (Historical fiction. 8-12)"
The coping skills of three sisters are put to the test as they leave Brooklyn for a rural summer in 1969 Alabama. Read full book review >
P.S. BE ELEVEN by Rita Williams-Garcia
Released: May 21, 2013

"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)"
Readers will cheer the return of the three sisters who captured hearts in the Newbery Honor-winning One Crazy Summer (2010).Read full book review >
ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia
Released: Feb. 1, 2010

A flight from New York to Oakland, Calif., to spend the summer of 1968 with the mother who abandoned Delphine and her two sisters was the easy part. Once there, the negative things their grandmother had said about their mother, Cecile, seem true: She is uninterested in her daughters and secretive about her work and the mysterious men in black berets who visit. The sisters are sent off to a Black Panther day camp, where Delphine finds herself skeptical of the worldview of the militants while making the best of their situation. Delphine is the pitch-perfect older sister, wise beyond her years, an expert at handling her siblings: "Just like I know how to lift my sisters up, I also knew how to needle them just right." Each girl has a distinct response to her motherless state, and Williams-Garcia provides details that make each characterization crystal clear. The depiction of the time is well done, and while the girls are caught up in the difficulties of adults, their resilience is celebrated and energetically told with writing that snaps off the page. (Historical fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
JUMPED by Rita Williams-Garcia
Released: March 1, 2009

It's more than just three high-school girls—self-centered Leticia, skipping the last few minutes of her before-school, repeat Geometry class; angry Dominique, begging her teacher for five more points so she can play in the next basketball game; and overconfident Trina, hanging her Black History Month artwork in the corridor gallery—in the wrong place at the wrong time. When Trina cuts in front of Dominique and her girls, Dominique threatens, "I'm gonna kick that ass at two forty-five," and Leticia witnesses it all. Short, nuanced, alternating first-person chapters reveal the truth behind each girl's motivations throughout the day and challenge readers to ponder the culpability of each teen when Dominique carries out her threat and Leticia refuses to intervene. References to A Separate Peace and other literary and historical allusions help fuel the riveting debate. With a realistic look at girl-on-girl violence and gripping characterization, Williams-Garcia masterfully builds tension to the momentous ending. Although readers can anticipate the tragedy that transpires, it is shocking and agonizing nonetheless. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
NO LAUGHTER HERE by Rita Williams-Garcia
Released: Jan. 1, 2004

This exquisitely written short novel tackles an enormous and sensitive subject. Ten-year-old Akilah waits for her friend Victoria to return to Queens from a summer trip to Victoria's birthplace, Nigeria. But when Victoria returns, she's different. She won't leave her house or even say hello. Eventually she returns to school but gives only one-word answers; she seems wilted and stunned. Where is her laughter, her sharp wit, her academic sparkle? Akilah stays confused until Victoria finally talks: in complete ignorance, she was taken by her family to Nigeria specifically to undergo female genital mutilation. As Akilah, sickened, begins to comprehend, so does the reader. Williams-Garcia pulls no punches: the operation's consequences are clearly explained, not gratuitously but for truth. Eye-opening and grounded solidly in the present, this piece has absolutely non-generic characters and allows a shocking subject various points of view (all black) without sacrificing a moral compass. Unapologetic, fresh, and painful. (author's note) (Fiction. 10-16)Read full book review >
EVERY TIME A RAINBOW DIES by Rita Williams-Garcia
Released: Jan. 31, 2001

An immigrant teen is shaken out of his reclusive existence into a world of love and life when he witnesses a girl being raped and decides he must act. Thulani has cared only for his pigeons since his mother left Brooklyn to return to Jamaica to die. His older brother and sister-in-law, with whom he lives, are absorbed in each other and are routinely callous to his needs. His rescue of the girl from her three attackers catapults Thulani into the world around him. Mesmerized with the nameless girl's suffering and a desire to know her, he resists her indifference and hostility to create a connection and through this struggle he grows. The writing is haunting and beautiful, with the island patois present in the rhythmic speech patterns of short sentences without a superfluous word. This is a romance told by a young boy becoming a man, learning about sex, work, lust, and honesty. Without becoming gratuitous, Williams-Garcia has found the right words poetically to describe anatomy and the sex that takes place, and does so without self-consciousness. It's astounding to contrast the horror of rape with an honest depiction of love and sex as part of a young-adult novel. A simultaneous increase of distance from his brother's family and as well as increased closeness is a delicate counterpoint to the main story line. Every aspect of Thulani is affected by his awakening to his choices. Guilt and concern, empathy, and attraction combine to set his feet off the rote path he has been mindlessly treading and into actively choosing his life. Even more outstanding than any of this author's previous strong titles, this captures the grit and feel of urban living in a powerful, yet gentle coming-of-age story. Romance for realists. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2000

A very gratifying first picture book from Williams-Garcia, one that plays with the willowiness of language while following the shenanigans of a young African-American girl trying to escape the bite of a comb wielded by her mother. As the mother approaches with the comb, the girl transforms into a "Wild Waiyuuzee" and takes flight. Actually, you can't see her at all, just the suggestion of her presence hiding here and there. "Trumpi. Trumpi. Shemama coming foot and foot after the Wild Waiyuuzee." But all that Wild Waiyuuzee wants to do is wiggle and giggle and run. Williams-Garcia adds lots of good sound effects, splashed across the pages in electric color by Reed: "Bang-O-Bok!" "Ah, Ko!" "Splee-Zash!" Her mother tracks after her, speaking of nut oil and plaits and beads. Finally Shemama corrals the girl. "No owie owie me?" "No owie owie." "Moka true?" "Moka true." Out of the fantasy wilds—a jungle of tall grasses, iguana caves, and the deep bush as dandied up by Reed in lush color and oversized detail—emerges the girl, back into her room, to gentling hands and painless braids. Lovely, all around. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

A moving story of a fresh-mouthed, 14-year-old mother who finds strong roots in her family's past and the means for going forward. When Gayle is pregnant for the second time, her mother drags her off for an abortion, then puts her and her infant son on a plane for Georgia. Her unclea ministerand his wife and daughter meet her with greatly varying degrees of welcome. Culture shock makes for some rough times, but Gayle unexpectedly discovers a kindred spirit in her bedridden great-grandmother, who not only becomes a confidante, but in an intense, spellbinding climactic scene passes on their family's history in a way that binds Gayle and her son firmly to past, present, and future. Williams-Garcia (Fast Talk On A Slow Track, 1991) plays off Gayle's street-forged language (no profanity, but otherwise authentically rude and gritty), expectations, and values brilliantly against her relatives' gentler conventions. Gayle is sharp and strong-minded, but gut-wrenchingly naive about some things; she continually startles, and is startled by, her devout, strictly raised cousin Cookie. Without moralizing, the author gives readers a good, hard look at the limitations of a world view in which sex and children are casual events (Gayle's indifference to her abortion and to her son's father is downright chilling), then suggests that with love, respect and a push at the right time, no rut is too deep to escape. A gift from a gifted storyteller. (Fiction. 12-up) Read full book review >