Award-winning author Walter Dean Myers, together with illustrator Leonard Jenkins, delivers a straightforward and compelling portrayal of one of America's most influential figures.
Walter Dean Myers is the acclaimed author of Monster,
the first winner of the Michael L. Printz Award, a National Book Award Finalist, Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book; The Dream Bearer; Handbook for Boys; Bad Boy: A Memoir;
and the Newbery Honor Books Scorpions
and Somewhere in the Darkness.
His picture books include Jane Addams Children?s Book Award winner Patrol: An American Soldier In Vietnam,
illustrated by Ann Grifalconi; Dr. Martin Luther King: I?ve Seen The Promised Land
and Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly,
illustrated by Leonard Jenkins; and Blues Journey
and the Caldecott Honor Book Harlem: A Poem,
both illustrated by Christopher Myers. He helped establish the Walter Dean Myers Publishing Institute, part of the Langston Hughes Children?s Literature Festival, and makes frequent appearances with the National Basketball Association?s "Read to Achieve" program. Mr. Myers lives with his family in Jersey City, New Jersey.
In His Own Words...
I am a product of Harlem and of the values, color, toughness and caring that I found there as a child.I learned my flat jump shot in the church basement and got my first kiss during recess at Bible school.I played the endless street games kids played in the pre-television days and paid enough attention to candy and junk food to dutifully alarm my mother.
From my foster parents, the Deans, I received the love that was ultimately to strengthen me, even when I had forgotten its source.It was my foster mother, a half Indian-half German woman, who taught me to read, though she herself was barely literate.
I had a speech difficulty but didn't view it as anything special.It wasn't necessary for me to be much of a social creature once I discovered books.Books took me, not so much to foreign lands and fanciful adventures, but to a place within myself that I have been constantly exploring ever since.
The George Bruce Branch of the public Library was my most treasured place.I couldn't believe my luck in discovering what I enjoyed most — reading — was free.And I was tough enough to carry the books home through the streets without too many incidents.
At sixteen it seemed a good idea to leave school, and so I did.On my seventeenth birthday I joined the army.After the army there were jobs — some good, some bad, few worth mentioning.Leaving school seemed less like a good idea.
Writing for me has been many things.It was a way to overcome the hindrance of speech problems as I tried to reach out to the world.It was a way of establishing my humanity in a world that often ignores the humanity of those in less favored positions.It was a way to make a few extra dollars when they were badly needed.
What I want to do with the writing keeps changing, too.Perhaps I just get clearer in what it is I am doing.I'm sure that after I'm dead someone will lay it all out nicely.I'd hate to see what kind of biography my cat, Askia, would write about me.Probably something like "Walter Dean Myers had enormous feet, didn't feed me on time, and often sat in my favorite chair."At any rate, what I think I'm doing now is rediscovering the innocence of children that I once took for granted.I cannot relive it or reclaim it, but I can expose it and celebrate it in the books I write.I really like people — I mean I really like people — and children are some of the best people I know.
I've always felt it a little pretentious to write about yourself, but it's not too bad if you don't write too much.
-- Walter Dean Myers