Handbook for Boys

Handbook for Boys

3.3 20
by Walter Dean Myers, Matthew Bandsuch, Matthew Bandsuch

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Jimmy and Kevin could really use a guide to life.

Their activities almost land them in juvenile detention until Duke employs them in his Harlem barbershop. Duke has rules for everything. But is he offering good advice or just more aggravation?

In the groundbreaking tradition of the award-winning Monster and Bad Boy: A Memoir, Walter Dean Myers

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Jimmy and Kevin could really use a guide to life.

Their activities almost land them in juvenile detention until Duke employs them in his Harlem barbershop. Duke has rules for everything. But is he offering good advice or just more aggravation?

In the groundbreaking tradition of the award-winning Monster and Bad Boy: A Memoir, Walter Dean Myers fashions a complex, layered novel about the rules for success. Handbook for Boys is the book that he wishes he could have read while growing up. It is also the book young people need to read today.

Ages 10+

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Returning to the setting for his 145th Street: Short Stories, the author juxtaposes a sketch of the 16-year-old narrator's home life with nuggets of wisdom delivered by the neighborhood barber with wit and tact," according to PW. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Myers does it again with another realistic look at African-American culture and the difficulties that face us all in this new "please yourself" society. Growing up gets tougher every year. A handbook on how to stay out of trouble and be successful would be nice and make things easier, but there is not one, or is there. Jimmy is charged with assault on a classmate but instead of serving the six months in a youth facility he is to perform community service at Duke Wilson's barbershop. Jimmy comes in daily after school with another youth, Kevin, who is working for a college scholarship. They listen to the ever-critical advice from Duke. Throughout the story Mr. M. Jimmy's anger and reluctance slowly fade and eventually this leads him to better understand life as well as himself. He soon discovers that lessons are better learned from the mistakes of others rather than yourself if possible. The "real" dialog and thoughts of Jimmy, as the narrator, makes the book easily accessible to even the most reluctant reader. This book is certainly, as Myers says in his forward, "a jumping-off point for many interesting conversations about success." 2002, HarperCollins Publishers,
— Christina Burbage
To quote KLIATT's May 2002 review of the hardcover edition: In his award-winning YA novel Monster, Myers depicted a young man in trouble with the law; here, he focuses on how teenaged boys can keep out of trouble. Sixteen-year-old Jimmy has a temper, and when he viciously beats up a Harlem classmate he is charged with assault. Instead of being assigned to a youth facility, however, Jimmy accepts the offer of Duke, a local barbershop owner, to supervise him in a community-mentoring program. Duke is a wise and caring older man, and he and his cronies Mister M and Cap attempt to impart their knowledge of how to get along in the world to Jimmy and another troubled teen, Kevin, as the two boys clean the barbershop each day after school. The shop customers, from a flashy dealer to an addicted woman to characters who blame others for all their difficulties, provide fodder for the men's lectures on taking responsibility for oneself, making good choices, having a plan for success, and following through. The path isn't always smooth, but Jimmy gradually begins to see life in a different way. This book is meant to begin discussions, but will its intended audience find it too preachy? I hope not. It's told from Jimmy's viewpoint, which helps, and there is enough storyline and anecdotes arising from characters that the good advice here should go down relatively easily. The older men are realistically sardonic, just as Jimmy is believably rebellious. Certainly a great choice for counselors working with teens like Jimmy, and as a spark for debates. A novel that will get readers thinking. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, HarperTrophy,Amistad, 212p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
Myers's latest work is intended to be a guide for young males, especially African Americans, as they encounter the obstacles and pressures of adolescence. Through the novel's easy-going format, young readers can readily identify some concerns of today's young men. Jimmy and Kevin are two teenagers who have the good luck to be mentored by Duke, the all-knowing owner of the oldest barbershop in Harlem. Duke has arranged for juvenile justice to let the boys work for him in his barbershop after school instead of going to a juvenile detention facility. Jimmy had been in a fight and charged with unlawful assault, whereas Kevin had been arrested for smoking marijuana. Duke's intervention allows the boys to stay out of jail if they live up to the agreement. The boys sweep and clean the barbershop while reluctantly listening to Duke and two other elderly men express their opinions about the people in the neighborhood. Duke and his fellow philosophers tease, question, and warn Jimmy and Kevin about letting their lives slip away because of making poor choices. Duke's words have a profound effect on both boys when Kevin ends up in jail. Myers presents the real-life pitfalls of young people in clear and concise language. Duke's character gently guides the boys to think beyond the present to look for better solutions to some of life's problems. While a little too leisurely in tone for older readers, this book should be very helpful to middle school students. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M J (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, HarperCollins, 192p,
— Brenda Moses-Allen <%ISBN%>006029146X
When Jimmy and Kevin find themselves before the judge, they are willing to do anything rather than go to a youth facility, even work every day at Duke's Barbershop in Harlem. Jimmy, though, didn't know this community mentor program would mean he had to listen to the ramblings of the men who gathered each day at Duke's, even if they weren't getting a hair cut. Soon Jimmy realizes the talk isn't idle reminiscing of senile men, but lessons for a successful life. Too bad they haven't been written in a handbook. Kevin seems to need one. And above all, Jimmy hopes his friend can stay out of more trouble as Jimmy himself hopes to do, but it doesn't seem that Kevin will make the right choices. The lessons in this novel are excellent, and teachers should be aware of the tastefully handled, but mature themes used in presenting the message. 2002, HarperCollins Publishers, 179 pp.,
— Lu Ann Brobst Staheli
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Myers prefaces his new novel with an explanation of his belief that adult mentors can help teens choose positive paths in their lives. The book begins with a judge giving 16-year-old Jimmy the option of being assigned to a juvenile facility for six months for assaulting a classmate or to a community-mentoring program. Of course, he chooses the latter and begins his relationship with Duke Wilson, the owner of a neighborhood barbershop where he will work every day after school. Duke is an older man who, with several of his cronies, tries to give Jimmy and Kevin (another troubled youth) advice about the decisions and paths they will choose as they travel through life. This is imparted by using characters who visit the shop as good or bad examples of people who think independently, who take responsibility for their actions, who are on drugs, or who believe they can solve their own problems. Although the conversations provide valuable life lessons, they come across as didactic and preachy. Much more realistic are the one-on-one scenes between Jimmy and other characters, like his mother and, particularly, his contemporaries. The teen's perspective is the vehicle that carries the story and by book's end readers know he will make it while Kevin has more to learn. Marketed as a work of fiction, the book becomes transparent; as a handbook, it could touch many lives.-Joanne K. Cecere, Monroe-Woodbury High School, Central Valley, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a self-help treatise in the guise of a novel, Myers's (Bad Boy, 2001, etc.) passion and concern for adolescent boys infuses the material and gives it a heartfelt urgency. He's eager to teach youngsters how to make the right decisions so that they can avoid the pitfalls of modern life and become productive members of society. With that aim in mind, he gives his readers three rules for achievement: "Find out what you mean by success . . . find out what work is needed to get there . . . go on and do the work." The story itself is slight: after being arrested for injuring a classmate in a schoolyard fight, an unexceptional child named Jimmy must work for an upright elder, a right-thinking street-corner philosophizer, and the owner of a local mecca-a barbershop in Harlem. Everyone who comes into Duke's barbershop relates a story of victimhood or success-fodder for discussion and a moral. At first, Jimmy finds Duke and his endless life lessons insufferable-and it must be said that the lack of dramatic tension and structure of personal story followed by analysis does grow tedious-but over time the man's genuine decency (and the rightness of his position) makes its mark. Finally, Jimmy sees firsthand how a poorly thought-out choice can have a catastrophic impact on a person's future, and begins to make better judgments in his own life. Although compositionally flawed, this has such important things to say to adolescent boys that it deserves a wide audience. (Fiction. 10-15)

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.70(d)
740L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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.

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Handbook for Boys
A Novel

Chapter One

Duke's Place

The barbershop was on 145th Street, just off Seventh Avenue. They call it Duke's Place, but me and Kevin call it the Torture Chamber. Some people said that it was the oldest barbershop in the neighborhood, maybe even the oldest in Harlem. When I got there, I looked up at the wall clock and saw that it was three twenty-nine. I was early by one minute. Duke, who owned the place, was giving a guy a haircut. Mister M and Cap, the regular crew of old dudes, were already there. Cap was sitting in his favorite chair sipping on cold coffee like he always did. Mister M was reading El Diario, a Spanish newspaper. Cap took his pocket watch out and checked the time and then gave me a mean look. I knew he was glad when I was late so he could get on my case. That was just the way the guy was made. He had probably been the meanest baby in the nursery.

"Hey, looka here." Mister M looked up from his newspaper. "They got this guy down in Georgia who's going to give away fifty million dollars. Man, some people just don't know what to do with themselves."

"What would you do with the money, Duke?" Cap asked.

Duke put the finishing touches on his customer's fade, then held up a mirror so the man could see how his haircut had come out.

"I'd put the money in the bank, down in the safe deposit vault," Duke said. "And maybe once a month I'd go visit it. Rub some all over myself till I got satisfied, then I'd put it all back until the next visit."

"Think you would move away from Harlem?" Cap asked. "Maybe go down to Florida or someplace like that?"

"You taking me out ofHarlem would be like taking a fish out of water," Duke said. "I've got this place in my blood."

He took the money for the haircut and put it in the cash register.

"See you next month," he called after the customer.

"Wasn't that the guy who used to own the grocery store on Eighth Avenue?" Cap asked as the door closed.

"Yeah," Duke said, cleaning off his barbering tools. "Bill McCormick used to have that little piece of store on the corner until he started spending more time at the racetrack than he spent in his store."

Just then the door flew open and Kevin, sweating and puffing, came rushing in.

"Am I late?" Kevin asked, looking up at the clock that read three thirty-three.

"It depends," Duke said, "on whether you mean for today or for tomorrow. You're late for today, but you got a real good jump on tomorrow."

"Duke, you're wasting your money on this boy," Cap said as Kevin took off his jacket. "Your deal with him is that he's going to work for you after school for two years and you're going to pay his first two years of college, is that right?"

"That's right," Duke said.

"If he can't even tell time, how's he going to make it all the way through college?"

"Maybe he's fixing to learn how to tell time when he reaches college," Mister M said. "Even this ten-year-old boy knows how to tell time. What's your name again, boy?"

"My name is Jimmy, and I'm sixteen, not ten," I said.

"You got to keep them straight," Cap said. "Jimmy here's the young one. He's sixteen, and he's on parole from Alcatraz, or some place like that. Kevin is seventeen, and he's the one Duke is paying to get out of town."

Mister M cracked up on that. He's got this high laugh, and he slapped his leg like he was getting a big kick out of it. It wasn't funny to me. I started to say something, but when I looked over at Duke, he was shaking his head like he was disgusted, so I just kept my mouth shut and started dusting around the plants in the window. By this time Kevin had grabbed a broom and started sweeping the floor.

That's why me and Kevin call the place the Torture Chamber. Duke lets his old-time friends hang around all the time and stay on our cases.

I guess they were okay in their way, but they didn't understand what being young was all about. Maybe they knew once, but they had definitely forgotten somewhere along the way.

Duke was tall and thin and always stood up straight even though he was sixty-eight years old. He told us he had gone to Storer, a black college in West Virginia, to study biology but ended up taking over his father's barbershop business.

"When I was coming up, you had to take what opportunities you could find," Duke was always saying.

I had heard about Duke's studying biology at least a hundred times. That's where he had met his wife, Janice. She had opened a beauty school on 125th Street that she ran for a whole bunch of years. When she died three years ago, Duke sold the school and said he was going to use the money to send some kids to college. Kevin was supposed to be the first, and Duke said if I finished high school I might be the second. The first thing I needed to do was to finish the six months on probation so I wouldn't have to go to a youth house.

They called Edward Mills "Cap" because he used to work in the courts as a guard and always talked about all the criminals he had seen. Cap was about the same age as Duke. He and Duke met when they were playing basketball in a tournament back in the olden days...

Handbook for Boys
A Novel
. Copyright © by Walter Myers. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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