IT AIN'T ALL FOR NOTHIN'
Walter Dean Myers
As both Branscum and Rabe come out with grit-and-hardship dramas of 1930s orphans, Myers gives us a contemporary Harlem kid whose problems seem more real and more serious even though he has a father and, thanks to welfare, knows he will eat. When motherless Tippy's grandmother ends up in the hospital, Tippy, twelve, is sent on to Lonny, who happens to be his father but is neither inclined toward nor equipped for the role. Lonny hangs around with his buddies, drinks, smokes weed, and alternately beats on Tippy, tries ineptly to be companionable, or presses money on him. Worse, Lonny and his friends engage in robberies and force Tippy to participate. Torn and miserable about going along with them, Tippy too starts to drink. How can he break away when he has nowhere to go? (Though this isn't a humorous story like Myers' Fast Sam, Cool Clyde and Stuff and Mojo and the Russians, there's a funny scene in the bus station where "a white guy in a yellow robe" and a black guy in a white robe get to pounding on each other over whether Tippy needs Krishna or Allah.) But at last, with one of the gang critically shot and untended after their big stick-up, Tippy does go to a sympathetic neighbor who notifies the police and later takes him in. Kindly Mr. Roland's convenient presence in the wings constitutes perhaps an easy out for Tippy and for Myers, but it doesn't undermine Myers' demonstration that however the cards are stacked, the choice is there to be made. And instead of the broad-stroke characterization of the orphan books, Myers gives us people--you'll even come to feel for the hopelessly no-good Lonny before he ends up in jail. Sound base, authentic surface--like Tippy, a winner.