I've been catching up on this influential author who I've heard a lot about over the years, but had never quite got around to reading his books. He won the Coretta Scott King Award for African-American authors five times and was the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in the U.S.A. in 2012/13 (equivalent to the Children's Laureate role in other countries).
You can get the full deal on his website or hear him tell his own story in this excellent Youtube video:
"I want to make poor people human beings in my books, so they can look at my books and say "That could be me, and this guy understands who I am as a full person."
First I read Hoops, which focuses on 17-year-old basketball player Lonnie Jackson, who's training with his team for the city-wide Tournament of Champions.
Coach Cal is thought to be a bit of a down-and-outer but proves to have been a pro basketballer when he was young, and made a lot of bad choices which still affect his life today.
Cal sees Lonnie's potential and wants him to do his best, but warns against giving in to pressure, which comes from so many different sides - his girlfriend, team-mates, family, school, basketball, school and college administration. Full of tension and realistic characters who so often make the wrong choices.
While looking for my cover image I discovered the work of artist Thomas Allen, who created some art works for The Johns Hopkins Hospital based on great children's books. You can see all the info about what he made, and how he did it here. Basically he's taken the books and done clever things with the covers, which he's then photographed. He included Hoops and created silhouettes of the main characters, with a quote from each written on them, then beautifully photographed.
They each have a talent - Twig is a great runner, Darius is a writer and they both have challenges to face, which they take the course of the book to work their way through, to find a mindset that lets them see that they can succeed, even though success often brings unwelcome attention.
Myers has won a slew of awards for many of his more than 100 books, as just a sample here's the list for Darius & Twig:
For the full list of all his awards and nominations have a look here.
Now I've moved on to (but not finished yet) Monster. The version I'm reading is not the original Michael L Printz Award-winning novel, but a graphic novel adaptation (adapted by Guy Sims and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile) of the diary of 16-year-old Steve Harmon who is under trial for murder, the title being what the state prosecutor refers to him, and the three others involved in the crime. I'll add to this once I get to the end.
What an incredible list of awards there are for Monster:
I'm going to be recommending this author to the many kids I know who have so much potential, but are so easily diverted from their path to success, and also the many able readers who want to see what life is like from the point of view of someone quite different to themselves.