Praise for Summer Brenner’s Works for Young People:

Oakland Tales, Lost Secrets of The Town

Oakland sixth-grade student Lindsay Sanchez from Elmhurst Community Prep presents a power-point presentation about Oakland Tales.

"A book for this generation of Oakland youth."
— Oakland Councilwoman Lynette McElhaney

“The Tale Behind Richmond Tales” in California Educator Magazine, February 2015 (pp. 50-51)

November 5, 2015 by Rochelle Spender, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Leave it to an artist to spin a city’s lost stories and a tale of two young people troubled by deportation, incarceration, street violence and a dearth of justice into a story of hope, change and dignity. Such are the crosscurrents -- migratory, turbulent, evocative -- flowing through writer Summer Brenner’s place-based novels for young readers: Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco; Richmond Tales, Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle and her new book, Oakland Tales, Lost Secrets of The Town. ” — Lou Fancher, San Jose Mercury News

“If there’s an Oakland teen in your life, consider giving him or her a copy of Oakland Tales. (The index alone is a short course in Oakland history.) You can find the book at Diesel, Pendragon and Moe’s; more independent bookstores will be carrying it soon. Summer hopes she can raise money to fund a second printing.” — C.J. Hirschfield, Oakland Local

“Students in Oakland middle schools are getting a new book -- and it’s not a textbook. It’s a novel called Oakland Tales, a time-travel adventure through the past and future of the city itself. By author Summer Brenner, Oakland Tales encourages students to understand the roots of their own neighborhoods and how things can change, for better or worse.” — Maya Mirsky, Inside Bay Area News

Reviews by Youth:

Student comments, 6th grade
Teacher Rachel Stone
Park Day School, Oakland

* I want to let things from the past inspire me to change.
* I want to not assume that all people in prison are bad.
* I want to help someone if I make a big mistake like Randy.
* I want to learn more about my roots so I can understand where I came from.
* I want to be able to have empathy for people even if they have hurt me.
* I don’t want to put people in categories.
* I want to take with me knowing that when people are alienated, it leads them to be angry, hurt, and confused.
* I want to forgive people and take the time to talk to them.
* Now I want to learn more about stars and space.
* If we live in fear, we don’t grow and change.
* We could be the generation to change Oakland like Jada and Ernesto were.

I myself am a big fan of historical fiction books like this one. Also I love learning more and more about the city where I live. This book encompasses both of these aspects to make it the near perfect genre for my reading. I have already recommended it to my dad and would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in "the town" and likes history stories with a deeper message of the current world.
—Ian Prchlik, 8th grade
Montera MS, Oakland, CA

I felt I was inside the book.
—Abdullah Braimah, 7th grade
American Indian Model Schools, Oakland, California

After I read this book, it changed my perspective on Oakland because I thought Oakland was nothing but bad. This book taught me to see multiple perspectives on things before judging.
—Alexandria Brown, 8th grade
Montera MS, Oakland, California

I used your book as an inspiration to my life and will learn how to make the right decisions. Also I am going to be aware of the negatives before they happen thanks to you, Ernesto, and Jada.
—Michael Johnson, 8th grade
Montera MS, Oakland, California

I liked that your book is about Oakland because people don't really care about Oakland. I see this as a way for people to connect with everyday lives. I took notice that this book could be based on actual people.
—Jasper Wilson, 6th grade
​Life Academy MS, Oakland, California

I appreciate how Jada, Ernesto, and Misty Horn went back in time to see how Oakland was before the violence.
— Alma Sanchez, 6th grade
​Life Academy MS, Oakland, California

After reading your book, I learned so much about Oakland's past and what we can do to make a better future for ourselves.
—Joy Delucchi Jackson, 6th grade​
Life Academy MS, Oakland, California

It's like my favorite book because it's so realistic, creative, and unique.
— Kenya Sanchez, 6th grade
​Life Academy MS, Oakland, California

Student comments, 7th grade
Teacher Janet C. Volkmann
Montera MS, Oakland, California

Many people are afraid to stand out and make a difference. I always thought that my voice would never be heard but now I know that I can make it be heard even if people think that I can't.
—Emma M. Prchlik

Oakland Tales has made me think about Oakland's past and future and how it will change. The Black Panther Party made me think about the cultural and racial difference in our Oakland community and society. . . . Also, when Ernesto got shot in the arm, that made me think of today's gun violence in America, and how so many deaths are caused when someone with a gun decides he doesn't like somebody and kills him. Amal expresses hope and kindness, and expresses her struggle with moving to Oakland, and that me think of all the wars in Syria, and how so many people, innocent and criminal, are killed in war . . . . All in all, this wonderful book has made me think of what is happening in our world, whether past, present, or future.
—Alexandre Brochard

This book has developed me into a better person. The enriching history in this book has given me insight on the successes and struggles as a community.
—Alex Asztalos

Oakland Tales changed where I think I am in the Oakland community. Before I thought I'm just something, but now I know I'm a part of Oakland . . . . A city isn't a city without its people, and I am one of them.
—Samuel Yasnogorodskiy

From this book I have learned that Oakland went through a lot over the centuries. To become what it is now is amazing . . . . This encourages me to not judge others without knowing their history.
—Trinity Hayes

Reviews by Teachers:

My 7th grade English class recently read Oakland Tales, Lost Secrets of The Town. The students particularly enjoyed the book because of the historical information it offered them about their town and its remarkably detailed appendix. Upon completion of the book, Summer Brenner visited our class for a discussion on the book and on writing. Her wisdom and kindness resonated throughout the room as she encouraged them to think, talk, read, and write.

—Janet Volkmann, Oakland Unified School District

My 6th grade students became very engaged with Oakland Tales when we read it as a class. They enjoyed getting the opportunity to read about characters who lived in their city and shared some of the same experiences. In addition, they read about some Oakland history that inspired them to learn more outside of the book.

—Madison Donatoni, Oakland Unified School District

It's amazing to observe 120 kids all reading the same material on their own and loving it!

—Cecilia Bolton, Teacher, Van Buren Elementary School, Stockton, CA

Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco

Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco, is a compelling and riveting novel that reflects the alarming increase in the number of children who are homeless and living in poverty in America. Ivy is one of those children. Summer Brenner has masterfully crafted a book that is realistic, heartbreaking and funny.” — Patricia Tilton, Children's Books Heal

Meet the Author of Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco

Reviews by Teachers:

“Often witty, occasionally heart-wrenching, this book offers insight into the lives of those who must endure living in shelters and on the streets.” — Children's Literary Classics

“Ivy is an engaging, educational experience, with emotional range, density of characters, a cinematic visual imagination, and a heroine wild at heart. We have a lot to learn about homelessness, and Summer Brenner’s saga of fractured family and redeeming friendship takes us deep inside the experience, while agitating our broader concern with social justice. All this in a lucid, poetic prose. She not only will get young people to read but make them want to write as well.” — John Broughton, associate professor of psychology & education, Teachers College, Columbia University

“Ivy is a story of homelessness. It is full of risk and tenderness, pain and insight all mixed with fear and hope. Author Summer Brenner engages readers by setting a course for a young girl and her father that requires connection and kindness in an uneasy world. Genuine characters tell the tale that is at once prickly and gentle. Readers will gain a picture of what over 1.5 million children in the US experienced this year. Ivy is a lovely book on a tough condition.” — Lyn Palme, library specialist, Contra Costa County, CA

“Summer Brenner’s Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco, wraps itself around enough realism to give young readers hope that there are good people in our world and that good things do happen, often when least expected. My sixth grade San Francisco Bay Area English students always enjoy the magic that envelops Ivy. Summer’s poetic language captures the essence of San Francisco.” — Janet Volkmann, teacher, Oakland Unified School District

Reviews by Youth:

“The title made me feel this story would be an exiting and thrilling adventure. The book did not disappoint me. I know what a busy city San Francisco is, and being homeless there would not be the best. Although I would not want to be homeless, Ivy’s story showed me how to be loyal, independent and the importance of being resourceful. Ivy also taught me how much I am distracted by all kinds of electronics because she was a deep thinker. I think schools should teach from this book because of the great lessons.” — SunIm “Sunny” Chang, age 11, Oakland, CA

“Ivy was sad but exciting at the same time. I was wondering what would happen every night. It stinks when you have to be homeless. If I knew someone who was homeless at my school I would want to help them. I think it would be really hard for homeless people to live out there when there is no shelter. As Eugenia Orr says, “The weather simply could not be helped.“ To me this means people who have a home have the choice to go in when it's cold or hot, but homeless people have to live in the weather.” — Roan Linvill, age 8, Berkeley, CA

“Ivy is a great book. I especially like the way the storyline curves up and down with exciting and quiet moments. When I was reading it, I kept on saying to myself, 'No, just one more chapter, just one more chapter!' In other words, I could not put it down.” — Arianna Delsman, age 9, Berkeley, CA

“Homelessness is an issue that affects many different people in many societies. Ivy is an 11-year old homeless girl. She is just a year older than me and I count my blessings. In the book I learned about what some homeless families go through and how brave a young girl like Ivy can be in this type of situation.” — Eliza Leal, age 10, Weehawken, NJ

“Ivy was great, and I mean it! I hope that Ivy, Lost in New York will also be published.” — Isabel L., age 10, Oakland, CA

Richmond Tales, Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle

Richmond Tales is an extraordinary book that artfully uses the power of fiction to provide both an imaginative glimpse into Richmond’s past and present, as well as a beautiful vision of what could be in our future. Written for young people, it is a great read for all ages. We are so proud to have this book as required reading in our local school district that we made it the Official Book of Richmond! —Gayle McLaughlin, Mayor, City of Richmond

Robert Rogers in Richmond Confidential (JUNE 2011)

Meet the Author of Richmond Tales

“...In Richmond Tales, which has become a staple in local elementary schools, a diverse cast of youthful characters embark on a journey through time and space in discovery of the “lost secrets” of the Iron Triangle.”— The power of Richmond’s story by Robert Rogers, Richmond Confidential, June 7, 2011

“...Summer Brenner’s Richmond Tales, Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle, has sparked an outbreak of “reading-fever” in the Richmond community because the storyline gives readers a ticket to ride backward and forward in time...” — Tasion Kwamilele, the Oakland Post online, December 8, 2010

“...I don't want to spoil the ending for you, suffice it to say that an incredibly exciting reveal awaits our courageous young people, who learn that once you get the big picture, your lives can never seem small again.” — Back to the Future with Color by Kevin Killian, April 16, 2010

Read the news article online about Richmond Tales, Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle at the June 2011 Family Literacy Festival!

Reviews by Youth:

“Ms. Layer, I'm not kidding, I'm gonna be reading this book like everyday- it's so good!” — Diamond Williams, 5th grade, King Elementary School, Richmond, CA

“So far, I think that it's pretty awesome,” said Raymond Kreger, 10, a fifth-grader at San Pablo's Dover Elementary School....“I give it the most stars you can give.”

“The books isn't just for kids, either. Raymond's mom, Adrianne Rosal, said she can't wait to tackle it after her son finishes. West Contra Costa Superintendent Bruce Harter said he can't put the book down. And Barb Johnson, Aide to U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who attended the Thursday book party, had a favor to ask. “I'm on chapter 29, so don't anyone tell me the end of it yet.” — Book Offers Journey through City History by Kimberly Wetzel, June 20, 2009, Contra Costa Times

Reviews by Teachers:

Richmond Tales is a wonderful book. I am a 7th grade English and Social Studies teacher in Stockton, California. I love how I can use this book to incorporate both subjects simultaneously. The students were mesmerized while reading the text. At every corner there was a twist and turn. The students thought that they were learning about the rough characteristics of Richmond, California and then they are transported to a more natural world; complete with the Ohlone people. My students told me that they felt that they were a part of the main characters: Maisha and Mario’s adventure. Ms. Brenner has written a literary narrative for the ages. The books Oakland Tales and Ivy are equally mesmerizing. —Cecilia Bolton, Teacher, Van Buren Elementary School, Stockton, CA

“I hope you realize the impact your work has on all of us. You’re allowing us to find a sense of pride in our neighborhood — a truly priceless gift.” — Diane Sullivan, Washington School, Point Richmond

Richmond Tales, Lost Secrets of The Iron Triangle, by Summer Brenner, was our book of study during the Summer Session of 2010 at Verde Elementary School in North Richmond. Principal Lanre’ Ajayi chose this book to develop our theme: heritage-pride and purpose.

Although Verde School is located in the heart of the Iron Triangle, students identified with the character, Maisha, who wanted to know what that term meant. In fact, in my seven years teaching there, I have not heard the students refer

Students in my class studied the characters and their traits. They were able to list both figures of speech and parts of speech from the context. Also, they read excerpts from the book during the Heritage Celebration Assembly. Passages were chosen to bring out our theme.

One of the many strengths of Summer's book is that it relates to children; it is dedicated “to the youth of Richmond, California--and to youth everywhere....” Everyone could relate to the Cooper brothers and their friends, the bullies. Also Verde’s custodian, Mr. Leon, is like the Keeper in the story. He was born and raised here. Often, he is interviewed by students. He speaks about several theaters and other fun places located all over the city. The Richmond of his youth was safe. Adults in the neighborhood felt responsible for the failure and/or success of all of the kids.

As I reread this book, I was amazed by another strength of the author’s story and style. Richmond Tales is laced with bits of history, important facts are subtly woven throughout the book, e.g. Mt. Tam, Point Molate, Ferry Point, the Kaiser Foundation, and the importance of the Kaiser Shipyards on WWII, the influence of WWII on the growth of the area, and the lasting contributions of numerous cultures.

As the Writing Specialist of Verde School, I have observed the impact of this book on students and on adults. We still speak about Summer’s powerful book and her inspirational visits. Actually, studying her book was the beginning of an amazing 2010-2011 school year. Students wrote and spoke their essays about family history, the meaning of human rights, and celebrating America. Now their essays are also in book form.

Thank you, Summer, for being an important part of our success.
Nora Conner

Richmond Tales is the book my 4th grade students at E.M. Downer Elementary (San Pablo, CA) unanimously voted to read first. They immediately identified and made connections with the story and its characters, as they learned the history of where they live!

Engaged throughout the process, my students compared and contrasted themselves to the book’s main characters, Maisha and Mario. Together, they identified and discussed the author’s lessons to the reader. We also used the Cooper brothers for a detailed character analysis and discussion on bullying.

Richmond Tales made students at all reading levels excited about reading. I look forward to using Richmond Tales again this year to teach English-Language Arts Standards and to empower my students!

Michelle Layer
5th Grade Teacher
Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary
Richmond, CA

“[Brenner’s] novel has been given to every 4th and 5th grader in the school district for summer reading, and the crowd that gathered for her book signing on Thursday showed how they love it.

‘I think it gives them a bigger sense of who they are and a glimpse of the potential they have,’ says Marin Trujillo from the West Contra Costa Unified School District.” — Carolyn Tyler, June 2009, KGO Channel 7 news story

Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco

“...Lolitas, Oliver Twists and Huckleberry Finns live on, and now, Ivy’s tale of hope lives right alongside them.” — Robin Clewly, San Francisco Chronicle

“This book will teach your kids truth and forgiveness in the strangest yet most comforting of ways....unable to put [it] down whether you are a teenager or an adult.” —

“....a quirky, clever story about a young girl’s journey through the streets and homeless shelters of San Francisco. On any given night, there are from 11,000 to 14,000 homeless people there. Ivy is fictional, but her circumstances are honest reflections of life for the many homeless children.....” — San Jose Mercury News

Reviews by Youth:

“Ivy was a story that really seemed as if I was there with the characters. All the parts fit in so well that I almost forgot I was reading a book. It was as if I was watching a movie and could hear their thoughts....I think this book is great for all ages. Ivy is both fun and moving.” — Anna Moss, age 12, Boston, MA

“Ivy was one of the best books I have ever read. I liked it because it taught an important lesson of faith and trust. My favorite character was Ivy because she was an inspiration...I really enjoyed reading this book.” — Rachel Hodge, age 13, Savannah, GA

“Because I live in the country a lot of Ivy’s city life was new to me. Being homeless in a city would be pretty tough. This was a good book. You had to think when you read this book. It would be good book to use to teach kids about how kids feel when they are homeless.” — Hannah Wasserman, age 11, Placerville, CA