A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that these are stories about life in the inner city and in Afghanistan. There is plenty of violence, sex, and drugs, though nothing is described, just referred to -- and the intense material is really used to illustrate the tough neighborhood the protagonists inhabit. Indeed the characters in this book struggle to show love and caring despite often desperate situations. The author gives readers a lot to think about: Are we all really born with the same chances in life? Is the difference between right and wrong always obvious? What personal strengths or characteristics are necessary to persevere in tough situations?
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What's the story?
In a series of related short stories that mostly take place in one neighborhood in Harlem, but also follow one character to battle in Afghanistan, this companion volume to 145th Street explores how loves blossoms in a variety of ways, even in the most difficult situations. Some examples: a very young girl struggles to care for her sick mother and even younger brother; a hardened street thug can open up when helping disabled children, but not with the girl he loves; and a teen considers holding up an old woman to buy his son a birthday present.
Is it any good?
Even though these are short stories, there's an emotional depth to them that is, at times, breathtaking. Veteran author Walter Dean Myers is interested in the many variations of love -- parents and children, friends and relations, siblings. Only in some of these stories does "love" mean romantic love. Even installments about men and women (or boys and girls) are more about the caring than the romance, and the many ways that caring shows itself.
Unlike authors who awkwardly try to reproduce street dialect in a vain attempt to seem authentic, Myers can make his characters real and vivid without swearing, and include the realities of sex, drugs, and violence without wallowing in them or resorting to graphic descriptions. He has been writing, and winning awards, for a long time now, and this book shows both the heart of a dyed-in-the-wool humanist, and the confidence that comes only with experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about short story collections. What makes them fun to read -- or is there anything about them that makes them less compelling than a novel?
What other books or movies take place in the inner-city? What are the similarities that you see in those stories -- and how does this representation compare? Why do you think stories like these are important?
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