Happy Birthday Walter Dean Myers


When I was in the eighth grade my teacher handed out copies of “Fallen Angels” to all of us. I had never read a book relating to war before and at first I was shocked by the violence. I remember mentioning this to my mother and she was horrified, however Dad calmed her down by telling her that it was fact. War was a gruesome and nasty business and the earlier that children learn this, the better. Maybe our generation wouldn’t enter into wars. My dad then sat with me and we read the book together, so he could explain to me what I was reading. This allowed me to focus on the story line and not the gore. I got a 110% on that test, the highest in the class, and it also started my love affair with historical novels.
Today is Walter Dean Myers’ birthday and I feel compelled to give him a major shout out for changing this girl’s heart and mind on studying history.
Walter Dean Myers is a children’s book author best known for his young adult literature. He has won the Coretta Scott King Award for African-American authors five times. His novel “Fallen Angels” is one of the most challenged books in United States because of the adult language and the realistic descriptions of the Vietnam War. He currently sits on the Board of Advisors of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
His list of awards is extensive. He was a nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2010. He won the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 1994, recognizing his significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. He was a two-time runner-up for the Newbery Medal. The ALA split the Newbery several years later, establishing the Michael L. Printz Award for young-adult literature. He was their inaugural winner for “Monster”, which was deemed the year’s “best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit.” He is a three-time finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
It would, however, be counter intuitive to mention all of his awards without mentioning the other side. His banned books. In 1990, “Fallen Angels” was challenged in Ohio schools because of profane language. “Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff” was challenged in 1983 by school administrators in Ohio. “Hoops” was challenged in 1989 in Colorado school libraries. As they say, however, nothing makes people want to pick up a book quite like banning it.
So, Happy Birthday, Walter Dean Myers from one of your fans. I will always pick up “Fallen Angels” with nostalgia.


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