Harlem Summer

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Overview


Myers is at his clever best in this witty and action-packed, coming-of-age story of a teenager's summer during the Harlem Renaissance and his run-ins with famous gangsters, writers, and musicians.

It's 1925 and Mark Purvis is a 16-yr-old with a summer to kill. He'd rather jam with his jazz band (they need the practice), but is urged by his parents to get a job. As an assistant at The Crisis, a magazine for the "new Negro," Mark rubs shoulders with Langston Hughes and Countee ...

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Overview


Myers is at his clever best in this witty and action-packed, coming-of-age story of a teenager's summer during the Harlem Renaissance and his run-ins with famous gangsters, writers, and musicians.

It's 1925 and Mark Purvis is a 16-yr-old with a summer to kill. He'd rather jam with his jazz band (they need the practice), but is urged by his parents to get a job. As an assistant at The Crisis, a magazine for the "new Negro," Mark rubs shoulders with Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. He's invited to a party at Alfred Knopf's place. He's making money, but not enough, and when piano player Fats Waller entices him and his buddies to make some fast cash, Mark finds himself crossing the gangster Dutch Schultz.

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Editorial Reviews

Elizabeth Ward
Like a black teenage Zelig, 16-year-old Mark Purvis runs into everyone worth meeting, and then some, in Harlem's heyday…Cursory history but a thoroughly entertaining read.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Myers's (Monster) historical novel pays tribute to the many well-known African-Americans on the rise during Harlem's Renaissance, through the eyes of 16-year-old Mark Purvis. It's the summer of 1925, and Mark's family has just received a financial setback, making it impossible to send Mark's older brother to college. Mark wants to help out, but well-paying jobs are hard to find. He thinks his job at The Crisis, a magazine that promotes Dr. W.E.B. DuBois's concept of "the New Negro" is fine, but not very exciting, and while he befriends the poet Langston Hughes, he longs to play jazz with the great Fats Waller. When Fats offers Mark a way to make some fast cash, he feels funny about it ("You didn't make no five dollars in one night unless you were doing something a little on the shady side") but agrees, hoping he can parlay it into a chance to jam with Fats. But the job goes awry and Mark winds up the fall guy. He has to set things right (a shipment of bootleg is stolen) or deal with the mob. Myers's humorous coming-of-age story reflects the paradoxically playful yet dangerous atmosphere of the 1920s. At the same time, readers learn about the many contributions African-Americans have made to this nation, underscored by the brief bios and photos in the concluding pages. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
It is the summer of 1925, and Harlem is hot. Mark Purvis feels the heat, especially after he makes a series of bad decisions and winds up on the receiving end of threats from a known criminal. During the day, he works for W. E. B. Dubios's magazine, The Crisis, where he tries to learn about the "new Negro" and meets Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. But to make some extra money, he agrees to unload a truck without knowing any details. But why worry? After all, the guy who asks him is Fats Waller, and Mark's dream is to play jazz with Fats someday. But the load turns out to be bootleg liquor, which ends up disappearing. Mark finds himself on the wrong side of both Dutch Schultz and the police. How can he get himself out of this one without disappointing his family or letting down his friends? Myers does a masterful job weaving real characters from the Harlem Renaissance into his story. He also includes short biographies of the "real" players to help young readers understand the context.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
It's the hot summer of 1925 and 16-year-old Mark, hoping for a record contract, just wants to play sax with his jazz band. His family needs money, though, and his aunt finds him a job as an assistant at The Crisis, a magazine for the "New Negro" published by the NAACP and headed by Dr. DuBois. There Mark meets many famous literary figures, including Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen (a section at the end highlights real places and people in the novel, with brief biographies and photos). He even goes to a party at Alfred Knopf's place. But when devil-may-care piano player Fats Waller suggests a way that Mark and his friends can make some quick cash, he finds himself involved in bootlegging whiskey and in deep trouble with the notorious gangster Dutch Schultz. This entertaining historical novel is leavened with much humor, and readers will particularly relish Mark's brushes with the bad guys and with the larger-than-life Fats. Myers paints memorable portraits of the time and the people, and this would be great supplemental reading for any class studying the Harlem Renaissance.
VOYA - Jeff Mann
Mark Purvis knows that most people in 1925 Harlem do not make five dollars in one night unless something illegal is involved. Mark, a sixteen-year-old jazz musician, jumps at a chance, however, to unload a truck for this amount when he hears that his musical idol Fats Waller is involved. The truck, carrying bootleg whiskey and owned by gangster Dutch Shultz, disappears, and Mark is blamed. Later Mark lands a legitimate job at The Crisis, a magazine published by The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Here he meets some well-known literary figures including Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and W. E. B. Dubois. Desperate to repay Shultz for the missing whiskey, he borrows money from other local gangsters, Queenie and Bumpy Johnson. Mark struggles to find out where he fits in, and his dream to make jazz records is complicated when he is caught between the two worlds of gangsters and intellectuals. Myers does a remarkable job of mingling his fictional characters with well-known luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance. Reminiscent, in ways, of Richard Peck's Long Way from Chicago (Dial, 1998/VOYA December 1998), this novel beautifully intertwines humor and history from the early part of the twentieth century. Harlem itself becomes one of the central characters in the novel and is captured well with local characters and local color. As with many of his other creations, Myers has his main character at a crossroads in life, yet this novel contains more humor and is more lighthearted than some of his previous works and just as satisfying.
School Library Journal

Gr 6–9
Sixteen-year-old musician Mark Purvis longs to break into the jazz scene of 1925 Harlem, but when he becomes embroiled in a bootlegging scheme with real-life jazzman Fats Waller, he has to find a way to pay off an angry mob boss for losing the liquor. Mark has a job at The Crisis , a magazine headed up by W. E. B. DuBois and published by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. As expected, his lovably carefree and occasionally clueless personality gets him into an insurmountable pile of trouble, yet it energizes both the plot and era with a contemporary vitality that today's hip-hop and pop-culture fans will appreciate. In this quickly paced and laugh-out-loud narrative, Myers brings Mark face-to-face with a dazzling host of Harlem Renaissance A-listers, including Marian Anderson, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen. Their swift, red-carpetlike entrances and exits ignite the hot New York City summer setting with the electricity of creativity and reform. As the story progresses, Mark's awareness of his surroundings and contributions to the cause grow stronger and stronger, and no doubt that's exactly what Myers hopes his readers will realize for themselves as Mark's story unfolds.
—Hillias J. MartinCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439368438
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/1/2007
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Walter Dean Myers is the 2012 - 2013 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He is the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author an award-winning body of work which includes, SOMEWHERE IN THE DARKNESS, SLAM!, and MONSTER. Mr. Myers has received two Newbery Honor medals, five Coretta Scott King Author Awards, and three National Book Award Finalists citations. In addition, he is the winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2007

    A reviewer

    It¿s the summer of 1925 in Harlem, a summer that sixteen-year-old Mark Purvis will never forget. In just a months time, Mark will get to meet the best and the worst people of New York City. Mark gets a job at The Crisis, a magazine that promotes and encourages ¿New Negroes.' The magazine was part of a movement created during that time with a mission to discover talented persons of color -- poets, novelists, and musicians -- and show them to the world. But Mark is not so sure that he wants to become a ¿New Negro.¿ What he really wants to do is become a famous jazz player and play the saxophone with his band. So when ¿Fats,¿ a well known piano player who made records, offers him and his friend, Henry, what sounds like an ¿innocent¿ job loading trucks in New Jersey, Mark and Henry don¿t think twice. This could be the opportunity they were looking for, their big break, a golden chance to be with 'Fats' and tell him all about their jazz band. Maybe he could even help them get a record deal. What Mark didn¿t know is that the job was actually for the most dangerous man and leading bootlegger, Dutch Schultz. And Mark didn¿t know that what they helped load was illegal alcohol, and that the truck driver was going to drive away, all of a sudden, with the merchandise. And now Dutch Schultz wants his money back, and he wants Mark and Henry to pay for it. Will Mark get the money for Dutch Shultz? Will Mark become a 'New Negro?' Will he be able to keep his job at The Crisis? Or will Mark end up traveling the wrong path? You¿ll have to read the book to find out. Every single word in Walter Dean Myers¿ book flows effortlessly in this entertaining novel. He makes writing look easy. HARLEM SUMMERS is a book that will strike a chord with all readers. Parents will love the lack of cursing and sex often seen in young adult literature. (Although, to be honest, I think that the author could have used some more cursing to make the dialogue sound a little more realistic.) Teachers and librarians will LOVE this novel that complements perfectly what we studied in 8th-grade social studies. I¿m sure that this book will soon be part of many recommended summer reading lists. And teens will love the story, because after all¿ who wouldn¿t want to meet the head of a notorious gang?! The end of the book contains a section with biographical information of real individuals that appear in the book and lived in New York City during that period, like Alfred Knopf, Langston Hughes, ¿Bumby¿ Johnson, and others. **Reviewed by: Christian C.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 31, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Christian C. for TeensReadToo.com

    It's the summer of 1925 in Harlem, a summer that sixteen-year-old Mark Purvis will never forget. In just a months time, Mark will get to meet the best and the worst people of New York City. <BR/><BR/>Mark gets a job at The Crisis, a magazine that promotes and encourages "New Negroes." The magazine was part of a movement created during that time with a mission to discover talented persons of color -- poets, novelists, and musicians -- and show them to the world. <BR/><BR/>But Mark is not so sure that he wants to become a "New Negro." What he really wants to do is become a famous jazz player and play the saxophone with his band. So when "Fats," a well known piano player who made records, offers him and his friend, Henry, what sounds like an "innocent" job loading trucks in New Jersey, Mark and Henry don't think twice. This could be the opportunity they were looking for, their big break, a golden chance to be with "Fats" and tell him all about their jazz band. Maybe he could even help them get a record deal. <BR/><BR/>What Mark didn't know is that the job was actually for the most dangerous man and leading bootlegger, Dutch Schultz. And Mark didn't know that what they helped load was illegal alcohol, and that the truck driver was going to drive away, all of a sudden, with the merchandise. And now Dutch Schultz wants his money back, and he wants Mark and Henry to pay for it. <BR/><BR/>Will Mark get the money for Dutch Shultz? Will Mark become a "New Negro?" Will he be able to keep his job at The Crisis? Or will Mark end up traveling the wrong path? You'll have to read the book to find out. <BR/><BR/>Every single word in Walter Dean Myers' book flows effortlessly in this entertaining novel. He makes writing look easy. <BR/><BR/>HARLEM SUMMERS is a book that will strike a chord with all readers. Parents will love the lack of cursing and sex often seen in young adult literature. (Although, to be honest, I think that the author could have used some more cursing to make the dialogue sound a little more realistic.) Teachers and librarians will LOVE this novel that complements perfectly what we studied in 8th-grade social studies. I'm sure that this book will soon be part of many recommended summer reading lists. nd teens will love the story, because after all... who wouldn't want to meet the head of a notorious gang?! <BR/><BR/>The end of the book contains a section with biographical information of real individuals that appear in the book and lived in New York City during that period, like Alfred Knopf, Langston Hughes, "Bumby" Johnson, and others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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