We’ll Miss You, Walter Dean Myers

July 8th, 2014 by

Last Wednesday, the two of us were chatting with each other online when Nancy relayed the bad news:

Nancy: ūüôĀ 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.

Walter_Dean_Myers_2001_Bookfest_screen_grabHe 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:

Hoops_WalterDeanMyersIf 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?

Harlem-Summer_WalterDeanMyersIf 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…

Down to the Last Out_WalterDeanMyersIf 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‚ÄĒunless they can make peace between the two sides in their school’s mock Civil War.

The Greatest Muhammad Ali_WalterDeanMyersIf you’re into nonfiction:¬†The Greatest: Muhammad Ali
In this biography, meet Muhammad Ali, the renowned athlete who transformed the world of boxing.

Three Swords for Granada_WalterDeanMyersAnd 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.

We’ll Miss You, Sid Fleischman

March 20th, 2010 by

Sid Fleischman Mar 16, 1920 - Mar 17, 2010

Just a few moons ago, when we covered the theme Historical Fiction, my book pick was By the Great Horn Spoon!, by Sid Fleischman. The first time I read that book was in the fourth grade, and I remember borrowing it many times from the library after that, even when I was “too old” to be reading it. Last September I bought a brand new copy, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did many, many moons ago. Well, Kidsmomo-ers, I’m sorry to report that Mr. Fleischman passed away on Wednesday, March 17th. ūüôĀ

An earlier edition of The Whipping Boy

Mr. Fleischman had just turned 90 years old, and in his lifetime wrote over 60 books, fiction and nonfiction &#151 including Newbery Honor book¬†The Whipping Boy. Just like Jemmy, Prince Horace, and many of his other characters who went on great, and oftentimes funny, adventures, so had Mr. Fleischman. Before he was a children’s book author, he was a regular ol’ author for grown-ups (BOR-ing). But his own kids wondered what he did all day, so he wrote a book for them and voil√†! &#151¬†he became a children’s author.

I'll never have to return this one to the library! It's mine! MINE!

And even before being a regular ol’ author, he had been in the U.S. Naval reserve, worked as a newspaper reporter, and performed as a magician &#151¬†as one-half of the act called The Mirthful Conjurers! While on the road for the act, he wrote a book about magic and eventually also wrote the nonfiction book ESCAPE! The Story of the Great Houdini.

To learn more about Sid Fleischman, check out his website, and of course, read his amazing books. Naturally, I recommend (again) By the Great Horn Spoon!

&#151 Nancy