A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that All the Right Stuff, by distinguished author Walter Dean Myers, is the story of a Harlem teen's summer job at a soup kitchen. Not unlike Socrates of old, Elijah the soup-kitchen man leads young Paul along the path of self-discovery by asking lots of questions, mostly about issues Paul has never thought about before. The book might be aimed at getting a young urban audience to think about the big issues, but it's a good read and should provoke deep thinking among all teens. Hip street dialogue includes the occasional swear word and euphemism ("s--t," "friggin'"), and there's a context of junkies but no drug use. An accidental shooting death kicks off the book, but no actual violence befalls any of the characters.
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What's the story?
Sixteen-year-old Paul DuPree and his mom are awakened one night at 3 a.m. by New York City cops, breaking the news that Paul's dad, who's been in and out of their lives, was just killed during a robbery. Paul's determined to be a better person and have a better life than his often-jailed father, but he hasn't thought much about how to make it happen. The summer job he's landed through his school's community program, which has him helping an opinionated old man make soup for senior citizens, soon has him asking big questions about life and the people in his neighborhood.
Is it any good?
Some may find this book long on discussion and short on action, but others may find it a good modern-day addition to the Socratic dialogues. Walter Dean Myers is the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, appointed by the Library of Congress, and the recipient of multiple Newbery and Coretta Scott King awards, among other honors. (His books include Monster and Sunrise Over Falluja.) He's zealous about the vital importance of reading, especially to economically disadvantaged people, and ALL THE RIGHT STUFF, packed as it is with challenging ideas set in the context of urban life, walks the talk.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the rules, written and unwritten, that determine who wins and loses in life. If you get off to a "bad" start, is there anything you can do to change things, or are you just doomed?
Do you think Paul will have a better life than his father? Why or why not? Do you think Keisha will make it to college?
Sly seems to have gone to college, gotten a good education, and turned to crime anyway. Why do you think this might be the case?
For kids who love coming-of-age stories
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