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Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers started school, looking to conquer the world. He could read well; he had discovered the powers of the written word. Words failed him, though, when it came time to speak. He had a speech impediment, one that caused him immense frustration: some words he couldn't pronounce. His frustration soon turned to anger. Luckily, a teacher recognized his problem. She told him to write words he could pronounce, and he began to write. He created poems at first, then short stories, full of words that he did not fear reading aloud. He was soon being praised for his writing: it was just a preview of the praise he would receive when he embarked on his life of writing.

Walter Dean Myers was born in West Virginia in 1937. His mother died when he was very young, and his father could not care for him. His foster parents, the Deans, brought him to Harlem in 1940 and gave him the love he needed. The rich mix of Harlem in the '40s and his foster mother's love gave Walter a good start. She taught him to read early on, and the stories his grandfather told him demonstrated the power of words. He discovered the public library, and it became his most treasured place. He knew his parents could not afford to send him to college, so he dropped out of high school at 15. He went back briefly the next year, and dropped out again. He joined the Army at 17. After the Army, he drifted from job to job during the day, but he always wrote at night, honing his craft.

He wrote articles for magazines, the "National Enquirer", even advertising copy for cemeteries. One day, Myers saw the Council on Interracial Books for Children was sponsoring a contest for black authors of children's books. He won, and the book he wrote, Where Does the Day Go? became his first published book in 1969. His first young adult book, Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff was published in 1975. Since then, he has continued to write children's and young adult novels, poems, and non-fiction to wide acclaim. Monster, published in 1999, earned Myers the first Michael L. Printz award, for the best young adult book, as well as being a National Book Award finalist and a Coretta Scott King honor book. Fallen Angels, published in 1988, is about the Vietnam war, and captures very well the way of life in the Army and the terror of getting shot at. Myers, like so many other authors, has been asked where he gets his ideas for books. He gets his idea from his life, and his interests. He likes basketball and has played it for years, so he's written basketball stories. He was in the Army, and from that experience came Fallen Angels. He has lived in Harlem, and has written about Harlem. His interest in history has led him to write several history titles in fiction and non-fiction. Throughout his work, there is a theme: we are responsible for our own lives, and fulfill our lives when we look to understand the lives of others. He took responsibility for his life once he started writing, and through his writing Myers helps us to understand others.


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Walter Dean Myers in the Library:

We own many of Myers' books. You can place a hold on any title and pick it up at any branch.


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Walter Dean Myers on the Web:

Literature Resource Center: Walter Dean Myers
Go here and enter your library barcode (or just the last seven digits), then scroll down to Literature Resource Center under "Literature." Once you're in, search for "Walter Dean Myers" You'll find some good articles on Myers.

Teenreads.com Author Profile
Some good background, plus a couple interviews with Myers.

Children's Literature

Don't let the name of the page fool you. Here is a recent interview with Walter Dean Myers