LEARNING ABOUT WALTER DEAN MYERS

Compiled by: Marilyn Fischer, Carol Levandowski, Carol Marlowe, and Barbara Snyder with Kay E. Vandergrift in the Young Adult Literature



BIOGRAPHY

Walter Dean Myers is a writer of children's and young adult literature. Walter Dean Myers was born in West Virginia in 1937 but spent most of his childhood and young adult life in Harlem. He was raised by foster parents and remembers a happy but tumultuous life while going through his own teen years. Suffering with a speech impediment, he cultivated a habit of writing poetry and short stories and acquired an early love of reading.

In 1954 he quit high school and joined the army. He later held many positions with various agencies including the New York State Department of Labor, the post office, a rehabilitation center and a transformer company. All during this time, Mr. Myers was writing for various magazines and periodicals. The turning point in his career came when he won a contest run by the Council on Interracial Books for Children with his book Where Does a Day Go? in 1969. Since then he has supported himself, his second wife, and four children with his very prolific writing in the area of children's and young adult literature. He volunteers at schools in Jersey City where is presently lives. He received his degree from Empire State College in 1984.

Myers explains his feeling for the young adult novel, "The special place of the young adult novel should be in its ability to address the needs of the reader to understand his or her relationships with the world, with each other, and with adults. The young adult novel often allows the reader to directly identify with a protagonist of similar interests and development." He is a compassionate, introspective person who believes, "It is this language of values which I hope to bring to my books. . . . I want to bring values to those who have not been valued, and I want to etch those values in terms of the ideal. Young people need ideals which identify them, and their lives, as central . . . guideposts which tell them what they can be, should be, and indeed are."

Following his success with young adult literature, Meyer has branched out to include topics of nonfiction including black history with his recent Now Is Your Time! and The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner an 1880's historical setting. Both have been received with much acclaim.

From: Walter Dean Myers 1994 "Margaret A. Edwards Award Acceptance Speech"Journal of Youth Services in Libraries. Vol. 8, No. 2 (Winter 1995): 129-133.

"Should whites write about blacks?" "Of course I feel you should write about anybody you want to write about, I couldn't care less who you write about. But what very often happens is that, when you're writing about a culture that's not your own, you may hit large areas of it, but there are so many areas that you miss." From: Roger Sutton. "Threads in Our Cultural Fabric," School Library Journal. Vol. 40, No. 6 (June 1994): 26.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WALTER DEAN MYERS

Where Does the Day Go? Illus.by Leo Carty. New York: Parents Magazine Press, 1969.
The Dragon Takes a Wife. Illus. by Ann Grifalconi. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1972.
The Dancers. Illus. by Anne Rockwell. New York: Parents Magazine Press, 1972.
Fly, Jimmy, Fly! Illus. by Moneta Barnett. New York: Putnam, 1974.
The World of Work: A Guide to Choosing a Career. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975.
Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff. New York: Viking, 1975.
Social Welfare. New York: F. Watts, 1976.
Brainstorm. Illus. with photographs by Chuck Freedman. New York: F. Watts, 1977.
Mojo and the Russians. New York: Viking, 1977.
Victory for Jamie. New York: Scholastic, 1977.
It Ain't All for Nothin'. New York: Viking, 1978.
The Young Landlords. New York: Viking, 1979.
The Black Pearl and the Ghost; or, One Mystery after Another. Illus. by Robert Quackenbush. New York: Viking, 1980.
The Golden Serpent. Illus. by Alice Provensen and Martin Provensen. New York: Viking 1980.
Hoops. New York: Delacorte, 1981.
The Legend of Tarik. New York: Viking, 1981.
Won't Know Till I Get There. New York: Viking, 1982.
The Nicholas Factor. New York: Viking, 1983.
Tales of a Dead King. New York: Morrow, 1983.
Mr. Monkey and the Gotcha Bird. Illus. by Leslie Morrill. New York: Delacorte, 1984.
Motown and Didi: A Love Story. New York: Viking, 1984.
The Outside Shot. New York: Delacorte, 1984.
Sweet Illusions. Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1986.
Crystal. New York: Viking 1987.
Scorpions. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid. New York: Delacorte, 1988.
Fallen Angels. New York: Scholastic, 1988.
The Mouse Rap. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
Now is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
Somewhere in the Darkness. New York: Scholastic, 1992.
Mop, Moondance, and the Nagasaki Knights. New York: Delacorte, 1992.
The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary. New York: Scholastic, 1993.
Young Martin's Promise. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993.
A Place Called Heartbreak: A Story of Vietnam. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993.
Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
The Glory Field. New York: Scholastic, 1994.
Darnell Rock Reporting. New York: Delacorte Press, 1994.
The Story of the Three Kingdoms. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
Shadow of the Red Moon. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
Glorious Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
The Dragon Takes a Wife. New York; Scholastic, 1995.
Smiffy Blue: Ace Crime Detective: The Case of the Missing Ruby and Other Stories. New York: Scholastic, 1996.
One More River to Cross: An African American Photograph Album. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996.
How Mr. Monkey Saw the Whole World. New York: Doubleday, 1996.

Monster. Illustrations by Christopher Myers. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.
145th Street: Short Stories.New York : Delacorte Press, 2000.

Bad Boy: A Memoir. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali. New York : Scholastic Press, 2001.
The Beast. New York: Scholastic, 2003.
Antarctica: Journeys to the South Pole. New York: Scholastic Press, 2004.

Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices. Holiday House, 2004.

Shooter. New York: Harper Collins/Amistad, 2004.
Autobiography of My Dead Brother. New York: HarperTempest/Amistad, 2005.


"Eighteen Pine Street" Series

The Test. New York: Bantam, 1993.
Fashion by Tasha. New York: Bantam, 1993.
Intensive Care. New York: Bantam, 1993.
Dangerous Games. New York: Bantam 1993.

"The Arrow" Series

Adventure in Granada. Viking, 1985.
The Hidden Shrine. Viking, 1985.
Duel in the Desert. Viking, 1986.
Ambush in the Amazon. Viking, 1986.

Contributor to Anthologies

Orde Coombs, editor, What We Must See: Young Black Storytellers. New York: Dodd, 1971.
Sheila Hamanaka, editor. On the Wings of Peace: Writers and Illustrators Speak Out for Peace, In Memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
Sonia Sanchez, editor, We Be Word Sorcerers: Twenty-five Stories by Black Americans. New York: Bantam, 1973.

Contributor of Articles and Fiction to Periodicals

"Margaret A. Edward's Award Acceptance Speech." Journal of Youth Services in Libraries. Vol. 8, Number 2, (Winter 1995): 129-133.

Adapted as A Film

The Young Landlords. Topol Productions.

SOURCES ON WALTER DEAN MYERS

Beetz, K., Ed.. Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults. Washington, DC: Beacham Publishing. Vol. 8, pp. 3966-3975.
Bishop, R. Presenting Walter Dean Myers. Boston, MA: Twayne Publishers,1990.

Burshtein, Karen. Walter Dean Myers. New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 2004.

Christenbury, L., Ed. Books for You: An Annotated Booklist for Senior High Students. Urbana, Il: National Council of Teachers of English,1995.
Davis, T. and T. Harris, Eds. Dictionary of Literary Biography: Afro-American Fiction Writers after 1955. Vol. 33, Detroit, MI: Gale, 1984, pp. 199-202.
Garrett, A. and H. Mc Cue, Eds. Authors & Artists. Vol. 4, Detroit, MI: Gale, 1990, pp. 203-214.

Jordan, Denise M. Walter Dean Myers--Writer for Real Teens. Berkeley Heights, NJ : Enslow Publishers, 1999.
Kutenplon, Deborah and Ellen Olmstead. Young Adult Fiction by African American Writers, 1968-1993: A Critical and Annotated Guide. New York: Garland, 1996, pp. 103-247.
Kutzer, M.D. Ed., Writers of Multicultural Fiction for Young Adults. Westwood, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, pp. 299-305.
Marowski, D.G., Ed. Contemporary Literary Criticism. Vol. 35. Detroit, MI: Gale, 1991, pp. 295-299.
Rush, T. and others. Eds.Black American Writers: Past and Present. Metuchen: NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1975, pp.563-564.
Senick, G., Ed. Children's Literature Review. Detroit, MI: Gale, Vol. 16, Winter 1989: 134-144.
Smith, A. "Walter Dean Myers." Publishers Weekly. Vol. 239, Number 32/37, (July 20, 1992): 217-218.
Sutton, R. "Threads in Our Cultural Fabric." School Library Journal. Vol. 40, No.6, (June 1994).: 24-28.
Telgen, D. Ed. Something About the Author. Vol. 71, Detroit, MI: Gale, 1993, pp. 133-137.
Trosky, S. Ed., Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series. Vol. 42, Detroit: Gale, 1994, pp. 333-336.


AWARDS TO WALTER DEAN MYERS

Where Does the Day Go? Council on Interracial Books for Children Award, 1968 .
The Dancers. Child Study Association of America's Children's Books of the Year, 1972.
Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff. ALA Notable Books, 1975.
Fast Sam, Cool Clyde and Stuff. Woodward Park School Annual Book Award, 1976.
It Ain't All for Nothin'. ALA Notable Book Citation and ALA Best Books for Young Adults Citation, 1978.
The Young Landlords. ALA Notable Book Citation and ALA Best Books for Young Adults Citation, 1979.
The Young Landlords. Coretta Scott King Award for Fiction, 1980.
The Legend of Tarik. ALA Best Books for Young Adults Citation, 1981.
Hoops. ALA Best Books for Young Adults Citation, 1982.
The Legend of Tarik. Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, National Council for Social Studies and the Children's Book Council, 1982.
Hoops. Edgar Allan Pie Award runner-up, 1982.
Won't Know Till I Get There. Parents' Choice Award, 1982.
Tales of a Dead King. New Jersey Institute of Technology Authors Award, 1983.
The Outside Shot. Parents' Choice Award, 1984.
Motown and Didi. Coretta Scott King Award for Fiction, 1985.
Adventure in Granada. Child Study Association of America's, 1987.
Fallen Angels. Coretta Scott King Award for Fiction, 1988.
Fallen Angels and Scorpions.ALA Best Books for Young Adults,1988.
Scorpions and Me, Mop, and the Moondance Kid. ALA Notable Book Citation, 1988.
Fallen Angels. Parents' Choice Award, 1988.
Scorpions. Newbery Honor Book, 1989.
The Mouse Rap. IRA Children's Choice, 1991.
Now is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom. Coretta Scott King Award for Nonfiction, 1992.
Now is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom. NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction, 1992
Now is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom. ALA Best Books for Young Adults and Notable Books for Children, 1992.
Somewhere in the Darkness. Boston Globe/Horn Book, 1992
Somewhere in the Darkness. Booklist Editers Choice, 1992.
The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner. ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1993.
Somewhere in the Darkness. Newbery Honor Book, 1993.
Somewhere in the Darkness. ALA Best Books for Young Adults, Notable Books for Children, 1993.
Somewhere in the Darkness. Coretta Scott King Award, 1993.
Malcolm X. Coretta Scott King Award for nonfiction, 1994.
Malcolm X. ALA Best Books for Young Adults, 1994.
Malcolm X. IRA Teachers' Choice, 1994.

Monster. Michael L. Printz Award 2000.


CRITICISM FROM ALA LIST OF BANNED BOOKS

Fallen Angels, New York: Scholastic. Challenged in Ohio schools (1990) because of profane language.
Fast Sam, Cool Clyde and Stuff. New York: Viking, 1975. Challenged by school administrator (1983) in Ohio.
Hoops. New York: Dell. Challenged in Colorado (1989) school libraries.

REVIEWS AND CRITIQUES

SCORPIONS

This section is written by Barbara Synder.

Jamal, a black young man, living in Harlem is struggling to handle the responsibilities of becoming a man within the conflicting environment of home, school and now membership in a gang, the Scorpions. His friendship with Tito is jeopardized by the circumstances surrounding his being forced to take a place with the Scorpions and the resultant possession of a gun and involvement with drugs. Tito says: "They look like they thrown-away people....that makes me scared, because I don't want to be no thrown-away guy." But for Jamal there is the question of the bail money for his brother, his Mother's anguish, his Father's wish for him to be a "man."

Strong characters and several subplots provide a superb, fast moving, suspenseful story. Told with variant English and some understandable "street language." Jamal's plight, rather than being depressing is amazingly upbeat, and you are sure - well almost sure- that he will draw on his rich background to survive. Walter Dean Myers draws an excellent picture of life in an urban city.

THE MOUSE RAP

This section is written by Carol Marlowe

Mouse as he is called by his friends (real name Frederick,) and his ace, Styx, along with Omega, Beverly and Sheri enjoy basketball and hangin', and the guys are even persuaded to join a dance contest. This summer is even more special for these Harlem teens. Rumor has it there is a stash of cash hidden in an abandoned building by gangster Tiger Moran.

Sheri's Granddad worked as a mover, of course being black did not belong to Sudden Sam's, but he heard them talking. Sudden Sam is now living in a nursing home but joins the gang of Gramps, Mouse, Styx, Beverly, Sheri and Moran's Grandson, Booster, in the search for the treasure. At the end, the city has to get involved, but fame and wealth is bestowed upon the gang.

"While it's a cheerful, lively story, this is busier than most of Myers books and has so much going on that it's almost cluttered. It's also determinedly bouncy so that there is little contrast in the writing--amusing but as relentless as a rock video."

From: The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. June 1990, Volume 43, No10, p.248.

MOTOWN AND DIDI: A LOVE STORY

This section is written by Marilyn Fischer.

This is the story of two young adults living in Harlem. The female, Didi, yearns to go to college, but her mother is unable to afford this "luxury." Motown, the young man, works when possible but is homeless until Didi convinces him that he deserves better and finds him an apartment. Their relationship becomes more than friends, helping one another when they interact with a local drug lord who has gotten Didi's brother involved in his drug business. Both of these young people are searching for a way out of Harlem, both are smart enough to want better lives.

For junior and senior high school students, this story will touch, as well as entertain. There is action, as well as romance, but not so much of the latter as to be mushy. Instead it's more of a study of two sensitive teenagers fighting to survive in their environment.

Didi is also fighting to keep her family intact, her mother alive, and her brother free of the drug addiction which may soon destroy him. Motown is trying hard to educate himself and support himself at jobs that don't last long and are generally unpleasant and low paying.

"the novel...makes a potent anti-drug statement."

From: Nancy Hammond.Horn Book. March/April, 1985.

"...strong, underlying anti-drug abuse message."

From: Sally Estes found in Booklist. October1, 1984.

THE GLORY FIELD

This section is written by Carol Levandowski.

In this saga of an African American family, reminiscent of Roots, five generations are traced from the 1753 capture of Muhammad Bilal in Sierra Leone to the present experiences of two cousins in New York City.

Slavery, the Civil War and freedom are chronicled through the intervening generations of family members. Throughout this novel, the love of family is the foundation for each character's life.

"Each part of the story ends on a hopeful note, yet each is unfinished. Readers are left to wonder what happened to various people; sometimes an answer is provided, but more often not."

From: Carol Jones Collins School Library Journal. Vol.40, No. 11, (November 1994): 121-122.

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