Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Bad Boy

Bad Boy

4.1 135
by Walter Dean Myers

See All Formats & Editions

In a memoir that is gripping, funny, and ultimately unforgettable, New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers travels back to his roots in the magical world of Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s. Here is the story of one of the most distinguished writers of young people's literature today.

As a boy, Myers was quick-tempered and physically strong, always


In a memoir that is gripping, funny, and ultimately unforgettable, New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers travels back to his roots in the magical world of Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s. Here is the story of one of the most distinguished writers of young people's literature today.

As a boy, Myers was quick-tempered and physically strong, always ready for a fight. He also read voraciously—he would check out books from the library and carry them home, hidden in brown paper bags in order to avoid other boys' teasing. He aspired to be a writer.

But while growing up in a poor family in Harlem, his hope for a successful future diminished as he came to realize fully the class and racial struggles that surrounded him. He began to doubt himself and the values that he had always relied on, attending high school less and less, turning to the streets and to his books for comfort.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

Editorial Reviews

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“This memoir joins the ranks of stellar literary autobiographies, such as Fleischman’s Abracadabra Kid and Zindel’s Pigman and Me.”
The Horn Book
“Many of the individual scenes have power…and the author’s voice and heart are consistently heard and felt throughout.”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
“A powerful read. Will make the reader laugh out loud & sigh with satisfaction.”
Chicago Tribune
“A thoughtful, cautionary and inspiring tale.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This memoir joins the ranks of stellar literary autobiographies, such as Fleischman’s Abracadabra Kid and Zindel’s Pigman and Me."
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“This memoir joins the ranks of stellar literary autobiographies, such as Fleischman’s Abracadabra Kid and Zindel’s Pigman and Me.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
Highly popular YA writer Walter Dean Myers takes a slightly different tack than usual by penning memories of his oft-troubled childhood in the aptly titled Bad Boy. Growing up in the 1940s in Harlem proved to be a mixed bag for Myers, one filled with both opportunities and obstacles. From gang warfare and racism to the dark secret his father kept for years, Myers's tale is a testament to the power of love, hope, and perseverance.

Though Myers's natural mother died shortly after he was born, leaving him with no memories of her, his father's second wife stepped in to fill the role. Even as a toddler, Myers showed signs of being problematic. Though everyone generally agreed he was bright, he was also restless, curious, and prone to fighting. From the time he entered kindergarten until the day he missed his graduation because he'd been skipping school so long he didn't realize the year had ended, Myers was a challenge to his parents, teachers, and even some of his friends. Some of his problems stemmed from a severe speech impediment, which often masked his intelligence and made communication with others difficult. But in addition to that -- or perhaps, at times, because of it -- Myers showed little respect for authority, endured severe bouts of depression, and hung out with several questionable characters he called friends. The one constant in his life, which also ultimately proved to be his salvation, was his love of books and writing, a love that obviously continued into adulthood.

Like the stories he writes, Myers's tale serves as a testament to the power of possibilities and potential, even when faced with the greatest of odds. Any teenager who's ever felt lost, persecuted, or misunderstood can relate to Myers's experiences and can take heart from his ultimate triumph over several types of adversity. (Beth Amos)

Horn Book
Many of the individual scenes have power…and the author's voice and heart are consistently heard and felt throughout.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Myers paints a fascinating picture of his childhood growing up in Harlem in the 1940s, with an adult's benefit of hindsight. His previous 145th Street: Short Stories conveys a more vivid sense of day-to-day life on Harlem's streets, and readers learn little here of the effects of global events (such as WWII). What they will come away with is a sense of how a gifted young man, both intellectually and athletically, feels trapped in his own mind as he tries to find a place for himself in the world. Some insightful teachers make a huge difference in his life: a fifth-grade teacher who avails Walter of her classroom library; his sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Lasher, who recognizes the boy's leadership qualities; and a high school English teacher who spots him outside the guidance counselor's office and says, "Whatever happens, don't stop writing." Perhaps the most poignant and carefully crafted chapter involves the 16-year-old's thought process in response to his guidance counselor's question, "Do you like being black?" Throughout the volume, Myers candidly examines the complexities of being black in America, from his first exposure to slavery in a seventh grade American history class, to the painful realization in adolescence that his blond, blue-eyed best friend is invited to parties where Walter is not welcome. Other chapters sometimes feel haphazard (a foreshadowing of Walter's discovery that his father is illiterate, for example, undercuts a powerful later scene that explores this more fully). What emerges is a clear sense of how one young man's gifts separate him from his peers, causing him to stir up trouble in order to belong. Fortunately, this bad boy turned out to be a fine writer. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
Myers paints a fascinating picture of his childhood growing up in Harlem in the 1940s, with an adult's benefit of hindsight, wrote PW. What emerges is a clear sense of how one young man's gifts separate him from his peers, causing him to stir up trouble in order to belong. Ages 13-up. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Walter Dean Myers, the much-honored dean of African-American writers for young people, grew up in Harlem. This is his memoir of those years in the 1940s and early 1950s. The title is a misnomer, for Myers was not a bad boy at all. Rather, he was a hyperactive child with a low boiling point who was trying to find his place as an adopted child in a mixed marriage (his adopted father was black and illiterate, his mother of German and American Indian extraction), as well as in a society, where his best friends could be white only until adolescence. Add a speech impediment and an early love of books to this mix and the result is a very confused youngster. Myers paces his story slowly and thoughtfully, creating not so much a picture of his world around 126th and Amsterdam as an inner universe of the evolving mind. His ultimate crash during high school is sad but believable, and when the author leaves us en route to the Army, one finds oneself saying, "Next! What happens next?" 2001, HarperCollins/Amistad, $15.95. Ages 12 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
Walter Dean Myers, the author of numerous books for children and YAs, grew up in Harlem in the 1940s and '50s. This memoir tells of his early years up until he enlisted in the Army when he was 17 years old, before he finished high school. One constant was his love of stories and reading, even when he was a discipline problem in school. His parents tried their best with him, but didn't have a lot of resources themselves. He credits their belief in him and their love, however, for his eventual success in life. A lot of these memoirs consist of anecdotes about the mischief of little boys in elementary school. A white teacher believed in Walter's intelligence and got him through the tests that would enable him to enter one of the best high schools in the city—Stuyvesant—but truancy and confusion resulted in failure. Walter was a tall boy, good in sports, which saved him somewhat. However, a speech impediment, which he was hardly aware of himself, caused him to be the butt of teasing and caused teachers to sometimes think he was stupid. There were teachers, however, who eventually got him speech therapy to correct this problem. His memoirs help those who read his fiction to understand how well he knows the neighborhoods he frequently writes about. His take on growing up black, hardly aware that he was in fact black, is an interesting element to the story: when he finally encountered racist attitudes as a teenager, he was astounded and deeply hurt. This is basically a gentle memoir, without the punch of The Color of Water by James McBride, but certainly of interest to his many readers. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, HarperTempest, 214p.,
— Claire Rosser
In his memoir, popular young adult author Walter Dean Myers recalls the life path that lead him to a career in writing. The Dean family reared Walter Myers in 1940s Harlem, New York. Not only were the Deans his "informal" adoptive parents, but Florence Dean also was the white exwife of Myers's biological father, George. This complex, yet interesting family dynamic sets the stage for the author's life journey. His personal account allows the reader to get a glimpse of Myers, the man, touching on the issues of racism, adoption, self-identity, alcoholism, gang violence, and a speech impediment that almost altered Myers's path to the written word. At the height of his difficulties, an English teacher told Myers, "whatever happens, don't stop writing." Despite his troubles, Myers remained an avid reader and writer; he discusses the texts of Camus, Faulkner, and other writers that he devoured as a teen. At the same time, Myers struggled to express himself on paper because he could not do so verbally. Bad Boy is more than just an appropriate book for a biography or Black History Month assignment. It is a powerful read that will reaffirm one's belief in the power of reading and writing, and it will make the reader laugh out loud and sigh with satisfaction. Teens might need to be directed to this book if they are not interested in biographies, but once opened, it has definite appeal because of its honesty, humor, and hope. PLB . VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, HarperCollins, 224p, . Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Nicole A. Cooke SOURCE: VOYA,June 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 2)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-This recording of Walter Dean Myers' autobiography (HarperCollins, 2001) will engage those familiar with his fiction as well as those who have not read Motown and Didi (Viking, 1984), Fallen Angels (Scholastic, 1988), the Printz-winning Monster (HarperCollins, 2001), or any of his other children's and young adult literature. Actor Joe Morton reads smoothly and with subtle inflections that augment passages producing shared laughter or horror with the storyteller's view of events. Bad Boy recounts Myers' roots; his unofficial but permanent adoption as a toddler; how his mother planted and nurtured his life-long love of reading; the academic trials and victories he met in his Harlem grade school and accelerated junior high years; and the deleterious combination of speech impediment, depression, racism and alienation he experienced through his high school career. Eventually, he left school, without a diploma, to serve a stint in the army, followed by a decade of manual labor, before rediscovering his writer's voice and strengths. In addition to providing a chronology of Myers' personal growth and offering insights on the times, his autobiography is rich with references to the many books he found through teachers, librarians, and his own browsings. His introductions to such works as Camus' The Stranger are presented in a manner sure to entice teens to borrow from the Myers canon. With a bit of music to announce the beginning and end of each cassette's side, the production quality is befitting of this major new literary work.- Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Catalogues of books alternate with battles against educational authorities in this memoir from one of the deans of young-adult literature. Myers (The Journal of Biddy Owens) paints a picture of a boy in love with words, an avid reader, and later an enthusiastic writer, but also one whose quick, violent temper kept him in constant trouble. From a cozy childhood in the embrace of his foster parents to an alienated and depressed adolescence, Myers consciously sets out to identify those elements that made him what he is: a black writer of books for all children. One of the book's strengths, no surprise, is its careful and loving depiction of Harlem's black community, and readers familiar with Myers's other work will recognize in many of the figures and situations he describes the inspirations for his fiction. Another is Myers's wry commentary on his youthful actions and attitudes: when describing his spiritual uncertainty, for instance, he writes, "I wanted to hear a big voice on the phone say ‘Yea, verily, this is me, God. It's all good, my man, and will be ultracool in the end.' " No life can be as tightly plotted as a novel, though, and the text sometimes moves unevenly from anecdote to unrelated (albeit interesting) anecdote, hindering a smooth narrative flow. His attempt to show how his life was constructed, moreover, results in a rather deterministic text from which one has the sense that much was left out, and his musings on the effects of institutionalized racism on his development as a young man and a writer become didactic interruptions plunked into a story which likely could speak for itself. Myers is arguably one of the most important writers of children's books of our age, however, and this glimpse into his own childhood is wonderfully valuable, fascinating, and even inspiring.
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books

“This memoir joins the ranks of stellar literary autobiographies, such as Fleischman’s Abracadabra Kid and Zindel’s Pigman and Me.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Amistad Series
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.44(d)
970L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Bad Boy MOBChapter OneRoots

Each of us is born with a history already in place. There are physical aspects that make us brown-eyed or blue-eyed, that make us tall or not so tall, or give us curly or straight hair. Our parents might be rich or poor. We could be born in a crowded, bustling city or in a rural area. While we live our own individual lives, what has gone before us, our history, often has some effect on us. In thinking about what influenced my own life, I began by considering the events and people who came before me. I learned about most of the people who had some effect on my life through family stories, census records, old photographs, and, in the case of Lucas D. Dennis, the records of the Works Progress Administration at the University of West Virginia.

The Works Progress Administration was a government program formed to create jobs during the Depression years. It did this by starting a number of projects, including state histories. Among the notes of the interviewers putting together a history of West Virginia, I came across this entry.

Lucas D. Dennis was one of the one hundred and fifty slaves that Steve Dandridge owned before the Civil War. This slave is ninetyfour years old. He was born in Jefferson County. His mind is very bright, he still has two of his own teeth, his hair is gray and he wears a heavy beard which is also gray.

After the Civil War he came to Harpers Ferry and built himself a house, which is on one of the camping grounds used during the war. This house is on Filmore Ave. and the corner of a lane leading to where many soldiers were buried and later taken up and carried to their burial ground inWinchester.

He lives with his wife, she is eighty-four. He saw John Brown and remembers well the day he was hanged.

Lucas D. Dennis was my great-great uncle. Prior to the Civil War, when West Virginia was still part of the state of Virginia, these ancestors of mine were slaves on a plantation called The Bower in Leetown, Virginia. The 1870 census still listed had Lucas D. Dennis as living on the plantation, but I knew, from family stories, that he did indeed move to Harpers Ferry and that part of the Dennis family moved to Martinsburg, West Virginia, less than ten miles from 'Me Bower. At the time of the interview with Lucas D. Dennis, the Dennis family in Martinsburg had merged with the Green family. One of the women of the Green family, Mary Dolly Green, later became my mother.

I have no memory of Mary Dolly Green. I know that she gave birth to me on a Thursday, the twelfth of August, 1937. 1 have been told that she was tall, with a fair complexion. Mary had five children: Gertrude, Ethel, George, me, and Imogene. Shortly after the birth of my sister Imogene my mother died, leaving my father, George Myers, with seven children, two of them, Geraldine and Vida, from a previous marriage. When I imagine her, I think of an attractive young woman with the same wide smile my sisters had. I wish I could have known her. However, today, when I think of mother, I think of another woman, my father's first wife, Florence Dean.

Florence Dean's mother emigrated from Germany in the late 1800s. A cook by profession, Mary Gearhart settled outside Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in New Franklin, Pennsylvania. There she met and married a Native American by the name of Brown. The couple had one daughter, Florence. Mary Gearhart, a small, pleasant woman, worked at a number of restaurants before finding a job in a German hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

When Florence was old enough to work, she also came to Martinsburg. It was while working at the hotel that she met a young black man, George Myers. The two young people began to see each other socially and were married when Florence was seventeen. From this marriage came two children, Geraldine and Viola. Unfortunately, the marriage ended in divorce, and Florence returned to Pennsylvania. The fact that Florence had married a black man did not sit well with her German relatives, and she was made to feel unwelcome. She decided to move to Baltimore, Maryland, where she met Herbert Dean.

Herbert Dean lived in Baltimore with his father, stepmother, two sisters, Nancy and Hazel, and his brother, Leroy. His father, William Dean, was a tall, handsome, and opinionated man who had little use for formal education aside from reading the Bible, and even less use for women.

He ran a small hauling business in Baltimore that consisted of several wagons and teams of horses. He expected his sons to enter the business when they were of age. When trucks began to replace horses and wagons, he scoffed at the idea, labeling the trucks as a mere fad that would never last. Even as his business declined, he stubbornly stuck to his beliefs. By the time he was nine, Herbert Dean was already working, pulling a wagon through the streets of the city, collecting scraps of wood, cutting it for kindling, and selling it door to door to light the fires in the old coal stoves that most people had at the time. Herbert had left school after the third grade, realizing that he was needed to help support the family.

By the time Herbert reached manhood, his father's hauling business was no more than a way of making a few dollars on occasion, and when William Dean still declined to invest in trucks, both of the boys struck out on their own. Leroy decided to remain in the Baltimore area, and Herbert decided to try his luck in New York City . . .

Bad Boy MOB. Copyright © by Walter Myers. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Walter Dean Myers was the New York Times bestselling author of Monster, the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award; a former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature; and an inaugural NYC Literary Honoree. Myers received every single major award in the field of children's literature. He was the author of two Newbery Honor Books and six Coretta Scott King Awardees. He was the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults, a three-time National Book Award Finalist, as well as the first-ever recipient of the Coretta Scott King—Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Bad Boy 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 135 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Gonna read it again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good and you will love this story and this one it is very funny :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i love the book if you like books that are based on older times you will like it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved it .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ausome book i love it
Tricia_Pless More than 1 year ago
A very intriguing cover brought me to a not such an interesting book. A story about Walter Dean Myer talks about the details of his Harlem childhood in the 1940s/1950s. He loved home life with his adopted parents, Bible school, street games, and the livelihood of his neighborhood. Although, Myer spent much of his time either getting into trouble or on the basketball court, secretly he was an eager reader and a hopeful writer. But as his picture for a successful future weakened, the values he had been taught at home, in school, and in his community seemed insignificant, and he turned to the streets and his books for comfort. It had a reoccurring theme over growing; learning and growing. For example, when he has to understand hitting someone when they make fun of his speech impediment is not always the right thing to do, and most the time get's him in trouble, but the right thing to do is to just ask them to stop. Even though I did not find the book to be as interesting as I hoped, it was new to learn about someone like Myer to me. His obstacles and ways of overcoming them are unique to what I have seen in my life. It could be the different cultures and times we grew up in or just show how different people can truly be. Much otherwise it was not more than average, not very intriguing, and didn't keep me hooked to want to keep reading. It truly depends on what you like to whether or not you should read this book, for me, not a first pick. But for someone who enjoys history and biography's, this might be your cup of tea.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can reate to some of the things he went through. Its a very nice memoir, if you get past the fact that its a memoir...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You guys are all a bunch of idiots this was an amazing book habe some respect
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow a hit!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Walter Dean Myers, the author of 'Bad Boy', wrote a great story about him and his life that he has lived. A young boy growing up in Harlem who has a love for reading and writing. Growing up he has always wanted to become a writer and now he is the author of many great books. Bad Boy was a great life story about Walter Dean myers and learning about his experiences and adventures was great. He went through tough times and good times and came out successful. This book inspired me to do what i need to do to get by in life and work hard for what you believe in. I'm a senior in high school about to graduate or at least i hope so. I fell behind in a class and now i need to work harder to pass. Reading this book during the class has really pushed me to do my work and get everything done that i need to. I recommend this book to anyone who is having trouble in their life. Reading about a man who grew up knowing what he wanted to do in his life and then becomming successful with it is an absolute amazing goal to achieve and i respect Walter Dean Myers a lot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oasis is better than Blur
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
7th grade novel experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hit my period today
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think it is a really good book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We need more unny reviews its the only thing i do class
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ur "dumb"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The memoir called Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers is a fascinating book because it shows how the writer matured throughout the book. One example is in the beginning. Walter, when at school would get into a lot of fights because someone made fun of his speech but as he gets older he realises he can’t punch everyone who made fun of him. Another reason  why it is fascinating is because he does a good job at describing the story and how he and the characters looked. Another example in this book is in one part he talked about how tall he was and how he was broader than the other guys in his school. Some things I disliked about this book is it was slowed paced in the beginning and he skipped around a lot. Sometimes he will be talking about how he was reading then in the next chapter he will be talking about how he’s punching someone in the face. I would recommend this book to people who like his books and want to learn more about his life and to someone who is doing a research paper on a famous author. I would not recommend this book to people who hate reading and if they have a low lexile range.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book for learning experiences only.  This book helps you realize the racial struggles for the blacks in the late 1900s.  Life was easy for Walter Dean Myers until he grew older and realized the struggles for Blacks.  Later in his life, Walter started skipping school.  That lead to being chased by gangs.  Later in his life he escaped his depression by entering the military.  After that he started writing short stories for children.  In all I would rate this book a four.  For school purposes I would rate it a five.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago