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Walter Dean Myers, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature 2012-2013


Walter Dean Myers is a critically acclaimed author of books for young people. His award-winning body of work includes "Sunrise Over Fallujah," "Fallen Angels," "Monster," "Somewhere in the Darkness" and "Harlem." Myers has received two Newbery Honor Awards and five Coretta Scott King Awards. He is the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in young adult literature, given by the American Library Association) as well as the first recipient of Kent State University's Virginia Hamilton Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2008, he won the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award. He is considered one of the preeminent writers for young people.

Myers began writing at an early age. "I was a good student, but a speech impediment was causing problems. One of my teachers decided that I couldn't pronounce certain words at all. She thought that if I wrote something, I would use words I could pronounce. I began writing little poems. I began to write short stories too."

Myers' 2009 title, "Amiri and Odette: A Love Story," is a modern retelling of "Swan Lake." "I had seen the ballet of ‘Swan Lake' as a child. But it was as an adult, when I saw a production featuring Erik Bruhn, that I first noticed how significant a part the ever-present threat of violence played. This juxtaposition of great beauty and grace with a backdrop of pure evil stayed with me for years. As a writer, I absorb stories, allow them to churn within my own head and heart — often for years — until I find a way of telling them that fits both my time and temperament."

"In listening to Peter Tchaikovsky's score," Myers continues, "I found the violence muted, but slowly, in my head; the sometimes jarring rhythms of modern jazz and hip-hop began to intervene. I asked myself if there were modern dangers to young people similar to the magic spells of folklore. The answer of course, was a resounding yes, and I began to craft a modern, urban retelling of the ‘Swan Lake'ballet."

In 2010, Myers received the Rutgers University Award for Literature for Young Adults, from the New Jersey Center for the Book and the Rutgers School of Communications.

"Myers is a giant among children's and young adult authors," said Dean Jorge Reina Schement. He is one of today's most important writers of books for the youth of our age."

Walter Dean Myers lives with his wife in Jersey City, N.J.  He was born in Martinsburg, W.Va., and grew up in Harlem.

Walter Dean Myers' Literary Awards
Newbery Honor

Scorpions, 1989
Somewhere in the Darkness, 1993
Coretta Scott King Award

1980, "The Young Landlords"
1985, "Motown and Didi: A Love Story"
1989, "Fallen Angels"
1992, "Now Is Your Time: The African American Struggle for Freedom"
1997, "Slam"
Coretta Scott King Honor Award

1976, "Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff"
1993, "Somewhere in the Darkness"
1994, "Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary"
2000, "Monster"
2011, "Lockdown"
Michael L. Printz Award

2000, "Monster"
Kent State University Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, 1999

May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Award, 2008

Margaret Edwards Award, 1994

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults List, 1993 and 2000

National Book Award finalist

1999, "Monster"
2005, "Autobiography of My Dead Brother"
2010, "Lockdown"