Darius & Twig

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Darius & Twig Book Poster Image
Quiet, sometimes poetic story of teens' scholarship quest.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kids will learn a little about how birds of prey hunt, about middle-distance racing and training, and a bit about college scholarships.

Positive Messages

You have to look inside yourself to find the best version of yourself that you can be, and then you have to find the opportunities to let that best self out and "do his thing." The only person you have to win against is yourself.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sixteen-year-old Darius is a great example of a caring, smart, mature young man who's a good role model for his younger brother. He carefully observes the world around him, listens to what others say and watches what they do, and thoughtfully arrives at the right conclusions. We see Twig only through Darius' eyes:  The best friend and sounding board who's always been there for him. Twig's also smart and models friendship, loyalty, working hard to achieve your goals, and athletic achievement. Adults are mostly on the sidelines and when they're available for help or support it's not nearly enough.

Violence

There's some gore in a brief description of a bird eating a snake. When Darius is mugged by the neighborhood bully, the scuffle and a few blows are described briefly. In turn the bully's father hits him and several punches and hits are mentioned but not described in detail. A shooting is briefly described but there's no gore. Blood from a gunshot wound is mentioned but not described.

Sex
Language

Typical teen language includes liberal swearing.  Most frequent is "f--k" and variations used a dozen times or so. Other swear words are each used half a dozen times or less and include "s--t," "s--tty," and "bulls--t;" "ass;" "crap" and "crappy;" "bitch" and "bitchy;" and "butt." "Bitching" is used positively once. "Faggot" is used three times. Describing nervousness, Darius mentions he could "feel my balls shrivel up."

Consumerism

Skype, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and 7-Eleven are each mentioned once.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Darius refers to his father as drugging himself. "Crackheads" are mentioned once or twice and once a teen smells of weed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Darius & Twig is a Coretta Scott King Award-winning addition to Walter Dean Myers' impressive pantheon. The story follows the best friends of the title during their crucial junior year of high school as they struggle for the scholarships that represent a ticket out of Harlem. It points out the many ways these young men have to swim upstream just to access higher education. It's a great starting point for thinking about the roles that the education system, the neighborhood, and the individuals play as well as the roadblocks they present. There's very little violence in the form of a couple brief descriptions of fights and a shooting. The typical teens use strong language (including "f--k," s--t," and their variations), but it's not over the top. 

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What's the story?

DARIUS & TWIG tells the story of two bright, talented 16-year-old boys as they try to hone those talents into the college scholarships that will get them out of Harlem. Darius likes to read and write, and if he can get his short story published he'll get the attention he needs for a scholarship. But a magazine editor wants him to make some changes to his story in order to publish it. Twig is a middle-distance runner who hopes that will be his ticket to an athletic scholarship. When his coach tells him coming in fourth place is what will get the scouts' attention (only the top four finishers' names and times are reported), Twig has to decide how he'll run the big race. Each boy needs to find a way to stay true to his own dream, and his own vision of himself, all the while dodging the physical and emotional punches of growing up in the inner city.

Is it any good?

Multiple-award-winning author Walter Dean Myers here presents a quiet, thoughtful study of two compelling, relatable teens as they find their way in the world against tough odds. It's a thought-provoking illustration of the many factors that contribute to making higher education difficult for so many to access. But it's mainly an uplifting story of how two young men learn to stay true to themselves and their dreams in spite of the difficulties, and especially the indifference, they face.

The language, which avoids slang and dialect while remaining firmly rooted in the nitty-gritty of daily life, occasionally soars when Darius fantasizes about birds of prey. Adults may find the metaphor a bit heavy handed, but it will resonate with teens and provides a poetic introduction to the literary device.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why it can be so difficult for talented kids like Darius and Twig to get a college education. What can schools, society, neighborhoods, and students themselves do to get more kids into college?

  • Why do you think Darius' thoughts about birds of prey are printed in a different type font? How would they seem if they were printed the same way as the rest of the story?

  • Darius and Twig can't stay out of bully Midnight's way all the time. How well do you think they handle it when they come across him? Have you ever tried to stay away from a bully? Were you able to?

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