Summary:  After spending the summer of 1968 with their estranged mother, Delphine and her little sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are heading back to Brooklyn. They take with them a deeper understanding of their mother (a poet/activist), experiences with the Black Panthers, and newly discovered independence. Back home, Delphine struggles to reconcile new thoughts and perspectives with her changing family and the struggles of sixth grade. And, the only help her mother is offering is a continual reminder at the end of her letters to “Be Eleven.”

Thoughts:  I loved One Crazy Summer.  It was the perfect blend of family drama, 1960s tensions, differing perspectives, strong female characters, and the universal struggles of growing up, all explored with humor and heart.  And now in the sequel P.S. Be Eleven, Rita Williams-Garcia completely succeeds again!  I may even like this one better than the first.

This novel picks up right where the last ended, allowing the reader to immediately see the way the girls’ summer experiences affected them and how balancing new thoughts and independent streaks is going to be a challenge at home.  As in One Crazy Summer, the story is told from the strong, honest voice of eleven-going-on-twelve-year-old Delphine.  She faces many obstacles as she tries to control her headstrong little sisters, laments being the tallest girl in her class, worries about the Valentine Dance, tries to accept that her father is dating, and seeks to understand her uncle who has returned from Vietnam a changed, melancholy man.  The story is interspersed with letters to and from her mother, Cecile; the correspondence perfectly contrasts the perspective of a woman dedicated to a cause and that of a young girl trying to figure things out, many times simply her own feelings.

One of my favorite parts is when the girls fall in love at first sight with The Jackson Five. 🙂 Williams-Garcia perfectly depicts the thrill of being swept away by new music and celebrity infatuation.  Reading it, I was immediately a kid again falling for Sean Cassidy, listening to Da Doo Run Run over and over (“Somebody told me that her name was JILL!!“)  🙂

Through it all, Delphine begins to reconcile her experiences, learn from new ones, and figure out who she is in … her family, in her class, and in the tumultuous world.

Read P.S. Be Eleven, if you …

  • read One Crazy Summer
  • enjoy quality historical fiction
  • like stories about strong, feisty girls
  • struggled being the oldest sister (or the youngest … or stuck in the middle!)
  • want to expand your views of life in the 1960s
  • have ever fallen head-over-heels for a celebrity or boy band!