The Book Reviews – Website

December 19, 2010

Hoops

Hoops by Walter Dean Myers: Book Cover

Hoops

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 183

Reading Level: 7

Genre: Fiction

Career Connections: Professional Basketball Player

PLOT SUMMARY: Lonnie is about to finish high school when he is approached to play on a neighborhood basketball team in a tournament that will have college scouts attending.  Lonnie joins the team with hopes that he may actually receive a scholarship.  However, when Cal, the neighborhood wine-o shows up and says that he is the team coach, Lonnie’s hopes fade.

Cal challenges Lonnie to a three basket one-on-one pick up game and Lonnie learns that Cal does “have a game”.  Cal manages to get the team uniforms and trains them to work together as a team.  He is continually on Lonnie to do better, but Lonnie begins to like Cal. The bond between the two builds as they practice and the team competes.  Lonnie begins to think of Lonnie as a friend and father figure. 

But Cal has a past that haunts him and occasionally does not show up for practice and games. When Lonnie finds him, Cal confesses to him about why he quit playing basketball professionally.  The two form a bond but Cal again disappoints Lonnie and the team.  It is through Cal’s discreet actions that Lonnie learns not only the game of basketball but the game of life.

REVIEW: Myers depicts his love for basketball in this book about basketball on the streets of Harlem.  Boys of the African American race will like this as it is written in slang which makes the story more believable.  There is a lot of basketball action but the story’s theme focuses on the true game of life.

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: None that are not content and age appropriate

AREAS OF TEACHING: Theme, Character, Setting, Generalizations. Predictions

RELATED BOOKS: Night Hoops, Slam, Shooter

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3687

www.selfesteem2go.com/team-building-lesson-plans.html

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Hoop Dreams (1994), City Dump: The Story of the 1951 CCNY Basketball Scandal (1994), Game Day (1999), Streetballers (2009), More than a Game (2009)

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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July 1, 2008

Somewhere in the Darkness

Somewhere in the Darkness

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 168

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

PLOT SUMMARY: Jimmy Little is a 14 year old living in Harlem. Mama Jean and Jimmy live together in a small but cozy apartment. Mama Jean leaves for work before Jimmy leaves for school. Even though Jimmy knows he should be in school, daydreams fill his mind and he often ends up wandering around. Jimmy’s unlocking the apartment door one afternoon, when a stranger approaches. That stranger is Jimmy’s father, and he’s just been released from prison.

Crab, Jimmy’s father, wants to take Jimmy with him to start a new life. Jimmy is afraid and part of him wants desperately to stay with Mama Jean and the life he knows. Yet, the other part of him wants to discover more about who he is, and he figures that his father just might have some insight. They set off on a strange and unpredictable journey from one place to another. Jimmy discovers parts of his past and the life his mother and father shared. Jimmy’s adventures along the way teach him to have strength and courage. As his father’s illness worsens, Jimmy is faced with a difficult decision. Does he stay by Crab’s side or return to Mama Jean? Can he connect with Crab and discover the truth about the father he has always longed for?

REVIEW: Myers writes a moving story about the struggles of a young boy and his father. The reader gets a sense of Jimmy’s depression and a potential learning disability. The narrator tells us that Jimmy scored high on the tests and the school officials can’t figure out why someone as smart as he is doesn’t do better in school. Jimmy’s daydreams are portrayed and explain why he can’t always concentrate.

Once Jimmy’s father arrives, the reader understands why Jimmy fears the unknown but also longs for a relationship. Crab’s disoriented behavior and his terminal illness only compound matters. Their erratic journey across America to find the truth isn’t always logical. This is an unusual story filled with strange twists and turns. I did not finish it with a sense of completeness – only a sense that Jimmy had learned more about his father and become strengthened by his trials. The one truly beautiful moment from the book is when Jimmy talks about one day when he becomes a father; he plans to share something with his child every day and to really know his child. Jimmy realizes that moments together are fleeting and he plans to make the most of them. On the end note alone, the novel is worth teaching students about.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: context clues, tone, author’s purpose, conclusions, generalizations, and predictions, mood, characters, setting, conflict and resolution

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drinking, criminal behavior, stealing

RELATED BOOKS: Slam!, Fallen Angels, Monster, The Beast

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.maslibraries.org/infolit/samplers/somewhere.html

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/myers.html

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=860&

http://www.mhhe.com/socscience/education/kidlit/aom/nov2000_aom.htm

http://www.tpronline.org/issue.cfm/Adolescents_with_Incarcerated_Parents?gclid=CICk-r3ajZQCFSBciAodDRRGWQ

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

June 25, 2008

The Beast

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The Beast

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 170

Reading Level: 6

Genre: Fiction

PLOT SUMMARY: Anthony “Spoon: Witherspoon is different than many of the kids in his Harlem neighborhood. He sees the chance for a brighter future. Spoon is offered a chance to attend an elite New England Prep School. Although he’s torn between leaving his home and exploring new possibilities, he know this is a once in a lifetime chance. After four months away, Anthony returns to find that home isn’t the same as it was when he left. His girlfriend, Gabi, has changed. Something dark and elusive haunts her. Spoon spots Gabi’s brother out on the streets. Illness plagues Anthony’s own family. Just when his world seems to be crumbling, Anthony has to find the strength to keep it all together. Can he keep his eyes on the future and still help the ones he loves? Or will Harlem life swallow them all and take their dreams away?

REVIEW: Myers writes a moving story about the struggles of a young man in Harlem. Anthony has gone away to an exclusive school and sees that there is a better life outside of Harlem. He’s still tied to his past and his love for Gabi. Gabi has turned to drugs because her dreams keep slipping farther away. Her mother is dying, her ailing grandfather is in her care, her little brother has turned to the streets and dealing, and her boyfriend is out of reach. Anthony slowly realizes Gabi’s addiction and works to help her. When she hasn’t returned for days, he visits the drug house and brings her home. Although this book dealt with the realities of drug use and the reasons why people turn to them, I do not feel that Myers adequately addresses the problem. Realistically, Anthony’s chances of bringing Gabi out of the drug house all on his own would be slim. I feel like the adults in the story should have been included in saving Gabi. At the same time, Anthony is fantasizing over his attraction to Chanelle.

The harsh realities of what drugs can do to a life are detailed well. On the other hand, the plot seems a little shallow. I would like to have seen more depth and intervention. Gabi’s love of poetry would lead to an interesting classroom discussion of poetry (its emotions and feelings). Overall, the book is appealing because of the love between the two characters and the hardships they endure. It is also valuable as a tool for teaching survival and overcoming harsh circumstances.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: context clues, figurative language, theme, setting, conclusions, predictions, climax, resolution, mood, tone

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drug use – pg. 161 “a needle still in his arm,” pg. 120 “skin surfacing, smoking…”

RELATED BOOKS: Slam!, Fallen Angels, Go Ask Alice, Beauty Queen, My Brother’s Keeper, Hero Ain’t Nothing but a Sandwich

RELATED MOVIES:  Little Fish, 28 Days, Permanent Midnight

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://shepherdingthought.com/2008/04/08/the-beast-by-walter-dean-myers/

http://www.drugfree.org/Parent/Resources/resources.aspx?ResourceType=Movies&page=2&Language=English

http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/teendrug.html

http://www.scholastic.com/titles/features/fiction/thebeast_rrr.asp

http://litplans.com/authors/Walter_Dean_Myers.html

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

Slam

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Slam

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 266

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

PLOT SUMMARY: Greg Harris, aka Slam, is an outstanding basketball player. He has just recently transferred from his Harlem high school team to a magnet school. The pressure is on to perform in the classroom and on the courts where Slam has to learn to be a team player. All around him struggles are taking place. Life in Harlem is far from easy. Grandma is ill and in the hospital, Derek is following his lead. Ice may be dealing, and he can’t seem to get Mtisha off his mind. As the pressure mounts, Slam has to make some difficult decisions and dig deeper than he ever knew he could. Can he keep it all together and still prevail on the courts or will the pressure be too much?

REVIEW: Myers writes a moving story about the struggles of a young man in Harlem. Slam has talent, but he has to learn how to balance the demands of life without giving up or giving in. Slam! is a compelling story and a must read for basketball fans. This book would be good in an audio version. In general, the book would appeal more to boys. High school students can relate to Slam’s relationship issues, worries about his best friend’s new choices, and the pressure of making the grades and finding a path for the future. This book contains strong characters and play by play descriptions at times of basketball games and moves (which could bore students who do not understand the game of basketball). Great book for an African-American male who loves basketball to read.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: sequence of events, causes of Slam’s difficulties – effects of his choices, setting, theme, conflict, writer’s motive, context clues (about Ice)

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: allusions to drugs

RELATED BOOKS: Basketball by Mike Kennedy, The Last Shot: City Streets, Basketball Dreams, How to Be Like Mike: Life Lessons about Basketball’s Best, Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk, The American Dream, The Beast

RELATED MOVIES:  Hoosiers (1986), Hoop Dreams (1994), Above the Rim (1994), Finding Forrester, Coach Carter (2005), Glory Road (2006)

RELATED MUSIC: Shaquille O’Neal – Respect, Hit Em High – Space Jam Soundtrack, We Are the Champions – Queen

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://faculty.salisbury.edu/~elbond/slam.htm

http://litplans.com/authors/Walter_Dean_Myers.html

http://www.bookhooks.com/detailed.cfm?Report_number=4652

http://www.walterdeanmyers.net/

http://aalbc.com/authors/walter1.htm

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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