July 8th, 2014 by Kidsmomo
Last Wednesday, the two of us were chatting with each other online when Nancy relayed the bad news:
Nancy: 🙁 Walter Dean Myers died today
Karen: OH NO
Karen’s response is pretty much how many felt about Mr. Myers’ passing. He was known for writing about the difficult life of black youths, which allowed children of all backgrounds to relate, connect, and understand each other more.
Mr. Myers was born in West Virginia in 1937. His mother died when he was just a toddler, and he was sent to live with his father’s first wife, Florence Dean and her husband, Herbert, in Harlem. In honor of Florence and Herbert Dean, Walter Dean Myers took their last name as his middle name. His stepmom read to him a lot when he was a child, and that’s where his love of books began.
He began writing poems and stories in elementary school, but dropped out of high school on his 17th birthday to join the Army when he realized he wouldn’t be able to afford college. But even after his enlistment, he continued writing, and some of his stories and poems were published in a magazine.
In his lifetime, Mr. Myers wrote all kinds of books for kids and teens — fiction, nonfiction, and even picture books. Two of his books, Scorpions and Somewhere in the Darkness, earned Newbery Honors, and his most famous book, Monster, was given the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award — an award given to the “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit.”
Mr. Myers died on July 1, 2014 at the age of 76. This past January, he finished a two-year role as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the Library of Congress (literally the largest library in the world).
Mr. Myers’ motto was, “Reading is not optional.” So, without further ado, here are some of his excellent books:
If you’re into sports: Hoops
Seventeen-year-old Lonnie is hoping his team will win the city-wide basketball Tournament of Champions, but he discovers that some bettors want his coach to bench Lonnie so the team with lose. With Lonnie’s future as a potential pro player on the line, what will he do?
If you’re into historical fiction: Harlem Summer
Journey back in time to the Harlem Renaissance. It’s 1925 and Mark gets a summer job at a magazine, allowing him to meet Langston Hughes, Fats Waller, and other big-deal artists. But Mark gets more than he bargained for when he ends up on the wrong side of a gangster…
If you’re into sports AND historical fiction: Down to the Last Out: The Journal of Biddy Owens, the Negro Leagues, Birmingham, Alabama, 1948
Biddy Owens is on the Birmingham Black Barons baseball team and dreams of becoming a pro baseball player. But it’s 1948, and that’s not a realistic option for most black players. Can Biddy overcome the prejudice around him to achieve his goal and play for the Major League?
Looking for a series? Try: The Cruisers
A bunch of misfits form a school newspaper as a way to speak out about their beliefs. In the first book, they find themselves in big trouble with the principal—unless they can make peace between the two sides in their school’s mock Civil War.
And now for something completely different… Three Swords for Granada
It’s 1420 and the Spanish cat civilization is being attacked by dogs led by the Fidorean Guards. Paco, Lacy, and Askia are brave young felines who are willing to fight for their cause, but they are charged with bringing a group of kittens to safety instead. However, they soon realize just how dangerous the assignment is as they journey through treacherous dog territory and encounter major adventure.
Or check out Mr. Myers’ entire list of books on his official website.