Search on SLJ.com ....
Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Press Release: Obituary – Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014)

From Harper Collins:

WALTER DEAN MYERS, PROLIFIC AND BELOVED AUTHOR

OF AWARD-WINNING CHILDREN’S BOOKS, DIES AT AGE 76

 

Myers Touched So Many With His Eloquent and Unflinching Portrayal of Young

African-American Lives

 

 

WalterDeanMyers 318x500 Press Release: Obituary   Walter Dean Myers  (1937 2014)Walter Dean Myers, beloved and deeply respected children’s book author, died on July 1, 2014, following a brief illness. He was 76 years old.

In a career spanning over 45 years, Walter Dean Myers wrote more than 100 books for children of all ages. His impressive body of work includes two Newbery Honor Books, three National Book Award Finalists, and six Coretta Scott King Award/Honor-winning books. He was the winner of the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award, the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. In 2010, Walter was the United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award, and in 2012 he was appointed the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, serving a two-year tenure in the position. Also in 2012, Walter was recognized as an inaugural NYC Literary Honoree, an honor given by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for his substantial lifetime accomplishments and contribution to children’s literature.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of erudite and beloved author Walter Dean Myers. Walter’s many award-winning books do not shy away from the sometimes gritty truth of growing up. He wrote books for the reader he once was, books he wanted to read when he was a teen. He wrote with heart and he spoke to teens in a language they understood. For these reasons, and more, his work will live on for a long, long time,” said Susan Katz, President and Publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Walter Dean Myers was born Walter Milton Myers on August 12, 1937, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Walter’s birth mother, Mary Myers, died after the birth of his younger sister, Imogene. His father, George, sent Walter to live with his first wife, Florence Dean, and her husband, Herbert Dean, in Harlem, along with Florence and George’s two daughters. Walter would eventually adopt the middle name “Dean” to honor Florence and Herbert.

In Walter’s memoir, Bad Boy, he wrote, “Harlem is the first place called ‘home’ that I can remember.” This sentiment is reflected in Walter’s writing, whether via a love letter to the neighborhood in the picture book Harlem; a story of a boy’s trial for a crime committed in Harlem, in the novel Monster; or the tale of two friends struggling to see a future beyond the community they know in the novel Darius & Twig. Walter spent much of his childhood playing basketball on the courts of Harlem and checking books out of the George Bruce Branch of the New York Public Library. Florence Dean taught Walter to read in their kitchen, and when he began attending Public School 125, he could read at a second-grade level. Though Walter struggled through school with a speech impediment and poor grades, and he had trouble with discipline throughout his school career, he remained an avid reader. His love of reading soon progressed to a love of writing.

Walter wrote well in high school and one teacher, who recognized his talent but also knew he was going to drop out, told him to keep on writing, no matter what—“It’s what you do,” she said. Walter did drop out of Stuyvesant High School, though they now claim him as a graduate (which Walter always found funny). At the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the Army. Years later, after his safe return home and while working a construction job, Walter would remember this teacher’s advice. He started writing again…and he didn’t stop.

Walter’s body of work includes picture books, novels for teens, poetry, and non-fiction alike. In 1968, Walter’s first published book, Where Does the Day Go?, illustrated by Leo Carty, won an award from the Council on Interracial Books for Children. Walter and his son Christopher, an artist, collaborated on a number of picture books for young readers, including We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart and Harlem, which received a Caldecott Honor Award, as well as the teen novel and National Book Award Finalist Autobiography of My Dead Brother, which Christopher illustrated. Walter’s novel Scorpions won a Newbery Honor Medal and the Margaret A. Edwards Award, while gritty teen novels Lockdown and Monster were both National Book Award Finalists. Monster appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, won the first Michael L. Printz Award, and received a Coretta Scott King Honor Award. His stunning Coretta Scott King Award-winning novel, Fallen Angels (1988), about the Vietnam War, was named one of the top ten American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults of all time. Twenty years later, Myers wrote a riveting contemporary companion novel, Sunrise Over Fallujah, which was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2008.

In Invasion (2010), Myers once again explored the effects and horrors of war through young protagonists, this time set in World War II.  His upcoming books include Juba!, (HarperCollins, April 2015) a novel for teens based on the life of a young African American dancer, and On a Clear Day (Crown/Random House Books for Young Readers, September 2014). A graphic novel adaptation of Monster (HarperCollins) is also forthcoming.

Walter often wrote books about the most difficult time in his own life—his teenage years—for the reader he once was; these were the books that he wished were available when he was that age. Throughout his life, Walter worked to make sure young adults had the tools necessary to become hungry readers, thirsty learners, and, therefore, successful adults. He frequently met with incarcerated teens in juvenile detention centers and received countless letters thanking him for his inspirational words. Walter also worked with and mentored teenage fan and writer Ross Workman, and they published the novel Kick together. As the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2012-2013, Walter traveled around the United States promoting the slogan “Reading is not optional.” He strove to spread the message that a brighter future depends on reading proficiency and widespread literacy, not only during his two-year tenure as National Ambassador, but beyond. More than anything, Walter pushed for his stories to teach children and teenagers never to give up on life.

“Walter Dean Myers was a compassionate, wonderful, and brilliant man.  He wrote about children who needed a voice and their stories told.  His work will live on for generations to come.  It was an honor to work with him for so many years,” said Miriam Altshuler, Walter’s literary agent.

Walter lived in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his wife Constance. He is survived by Constance, as well as his two sons, Christopher and Michael Dean. He was predeceased by his daughter, Karen.

share save 171 16 Press Release: Obituary   Walter Dean Myers  (1937 2014)
Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. Amy G Koss says:

    Some lives make the world better, and his was one.

  2. Love that man, love his work, so much. Can not really fathom this news. Huge loss. Huge.

  3. Too sad for words. He will always be one of the greats–as a person and writer.

  4. Janice Ford says:

    So sorry to hear of Walter Dean Myers’ passing. So incredibly thankful for his body of work and that future generations will be blessed to enjoy.

  5. Tamar says:

    I would like to echo the heartfelt and wise compliments that the other commentators have already paid to Mr. Myers. He was a true gem.

  6. Walter’s HERE IN HARLEM: POEMS IN MANY VOICES (Holiday House) received the Lee Bennett Hopkins/Penn State Poetry Award in 2005. BLUE JOURNEY, illustrated by his son, Christopher, (Holiday House) was an Honor Book in 2004. Walter is sorely missed. LBH

  7. My husband and I met Walter last year at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival. So sad to lose such a talented, kind and generous spirit who was an inspiration to authors and children everywhere.

  8. CORRECTION: Walter’s WE ARE AMERICA was not a Caldecott Honor Book.

    Lee Bennett Hopkins

  9. Brenda Bowen says:

    The heavens are as sad as we are tonight, thrashing and weeping. Walter was generous to the core. He left us his books and his mirthful voice and his gentle urging to do better, work harder for those without a voice at all. We were lucky to have him.

  10. Deborah Pope says:

    In the way he lived, as well as with the beauty and truth of his writing, he carried the torch for the rest of us to follow.

  11. Wendy H. says:

    As an educator in a diverse inner-city location, I always use Walter Dean Meyer’s books, especially “Bad Boy”, in my classes. I was so incredibly pleased to read his recent article, “Where are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” in the March 2014 New York Times. May his legacy in writing and advocacy of children and literature continue to inform the future of writers and readers alike.

  12. Thank you Walter for your words, your humor, your insight. You will be missed by all.

  13. I’m speechless. What an enormous loss.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Press Release: Obituary – Walter Dean Myers 1937-2014 — @fuseeight A Fuse #8 Production. Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestLike this:Like Loading… [...]

  2. [...] Walter Dean Myers died on Tuesday at the age of 76 after a brief illness, publisher HarperCollins said in a statement. [...]

  3. [...] Walter Dean Myers died on Tuesday at the age of 76 after a brief illness, publisher HarperCollins said in a [...]

  4. [...] know there are a lot of Myers fans out there. Big [...]

  5. [...] Press Release Obituary-Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014) [...]

  6. [...] Walter Dean Myers died on Tuesday at the age of 76 after a brief illness, publisher HarperCollins said in a [...]

  7. [...] Press Release: Obituary – Walter Dean Myers (1937-2014) – On a sad note, children’s author Walter Dean Myers passed away yesterday at age 76. Walter often wrote books about the most difficult time in his own life—his teenage years—for the reader he once was; these were the books that he wished were available when he was that age. Throughout his life, Walter worked to make sure young adults had the tools necessary to become hungry readers, thirsty learners, and, therefore, successful adults. He frequently met with incarcerated teens in juvenile detention centers and received countless letters thanking him for his inspirational words. Walter also worked with and mentored teenage fan and writer Ross Workman, and they published the novel Kick together. As the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2012-2013, Walter traveled around the United States promoting the slogan “Reading is not optional.” He strove to spread the message that a brighter future depends on reading proficiency and widespread literacy, not only during his two-year tenure as National Ambassador, but beyond. More than anything, Walter pushed for his stories to teach children and teenagers never to give up on life. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts Ridley An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes. [...]

  8. [...] children’s book author, died on July 1, 2014, following a brief illness. He was 76 years old. The School Library Journal released his obituary on July [...]

  9. [...] the kid lit community lost one of its giants when Walter Dean Myers passed away. Credited with writing over 100 books in a career that lasted over 45 years, Myers’s impact [...]

  10. [...] the kid lit community lost one of its giants when Walter Dean Myers passed away. Credited with writing over 100 books in a career that lasted over 45 years, Myers’s impact [...]