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HANDBOOK FOR BOYS by Walter Dean Myers


by Walter Dean Myers

Age Range: 10 - 15

Pub Date: May 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-06-029146-X
Publisher: HarperCollins

In a self-help treatise in the guise of a novel, Myers’s (Bad Boy, 2001, etc.) passion and concern for adolescent boys infuses the material and gives it a heartfelt urgency. He’s eager to teach youngsters how to make the right decisions so that they can avoid the pitfalls of modern life and become productive members of society. With that aim in mind, he gives his readers three rules for achievement: “Find out what you mean by success . . . find out what work is needed to get there . . . go on and do the work.” The story itself is slight: after being arrested for injuring a classmate in a schoolyard fight, an unexceptional child named Jimmy must work for an upright elder, a right-thinking street-corner philosophizer, and the owner of a local mecca—a barbershop in Harlem. Everyone who comes into Duke’s barbershop relates a story of victimhood or success—fodder for discussion and a moral. At first, Jimmy finds Duke and his endless life lessons insufferable—and it must be said that the lack of dramatic tension and structure of personal story followed by analysis does grow tedious—but over time the man’s genuine decency (and the rightness of his position) makes its mark. Finally, Jimmy sees firsthand how a poorly thought-out choice can have a catastrophic impact on a person’s future, and begins to make better judgments in his own life. Although compositionally flawed, this has such important things to say to adolescent boys that it deserves a wide audience. (Fiction. 10-15)