Walter Dean Myers

Hi everyone. As many of you have probably already heard, Walter Dean Myers, author of more than 100 books for children and a former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, died July 1st at the age of 76.

To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t really know what to say. I’m sad and surprised, and I think a lot of people probably are.

Walter Dean Myers at Book Expo America 2013
Walter Dean Myers at Book Expo America 2013

The thing with Walter Dean Myers is that it’s so hard to imagine him dying. It’s hard to imagine the book world without him. I mean god, he wrote more than 100 books. He’s one of those giants of literature that wrote really honest-to-God good books. And sure, he wasn’t on Twitter, and he wasn’t on YouTube, but he was still important and just this presence in the book world, you know? (He wrote this wonderful piece on diversity in children’s literature just in March.)

Walter Dean Myers was, and always will be, one of the best writers in recent memory. And I don’t even mean just a writer for a children, but a writer in general. His books suck you in and don’t let go. They’re original and striking, and they’re the kind of books that you remember.

I got to meet Walter Dean Myers at Book Expo America 2013, and I don’t even remember what I said. Because when I walked up to him and had him signing my book right in front of me, my legs felt shaky. He wrote the kind of books that inspired that feeling.

He’s one of those authors that could get kids to read, and who truly cared about readers. He didn’t just write books, he also pushed for greater equality in the book world itself. It’s very, very sad to see Walter Dean Myers go. But we’re also very, very lucky that he was here.

Rest in peace.

“Books took me to a place within myself that I have been constantly exploring ever since.” –Walter Dean Myers (August 12, 1937–July 1, 2014)

10 Books You Should Read

Hi everybody! So a little while ago John Green made a YouTube video in which he recommended 18 books he thought viewers probably hadn’t read. Carrie Hope Fletcher did a similar video on her YouTube channel, too, and it looked like fun, so. . .

(These aren’t necessarily books you probably haven’t read; they’re more books that I think are fun/awesome/really good that more people might want to read.)

1. The Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson

OK, yes, I realize that this is a series, not a single book. But these books, guys. GAH. I’ve talked about The Name of the Star before, but I just recently finished its sequel, The Madness Underneath, and MY FEELINGS. WHY. WHY WITH THAT ENDING. Just. . .just WHY. Anyways, these books are terrific, and ever so slightly addictive, so I highly suggest you read them. Then we can cry together. (It may not be a good idea to read them right before bed, though. At least with The Name of the Star.)

2. Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

If this book looks familiar, it’s probably because I’ve reviewed it before. Climbing the Stairs tells the story of Vidya, a fifteen-year-old living in India during WWII. Vidya’s country is going through a period of upheaval–protests are taking place, and people are refusing to accept the racist attitudes of the British that are occupying their country. Vidya herself has her own worries. She wants to go to college, but there’s also the possibility that she will be married off before she gets the chance. And then something terrible happens, and her family has to go live in the traditional home of their relatives, where men and women are separated by a forbidden flight of stairs. Padma Venkatraman’s writing is insanely good, as are her characters and plot. Plus, her new book, A Time to Dance, was just recently released. EXCITEMENT.

3. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

Oh, this book. Pranks. A boarding school. Basset hounds. Secret societies. It is SO GOOD.

Frankie Landau-Banks attends Alabaster Preparatory Academy, a boarding school in northern Massachusetts. Her freshman year wasn’t exactly illustrious, but this year is going to be different–especially when Frankie gets involved with the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male secret society to which she is not allowed to belong. But Frankie is smart (not to mention somewhat cunning), and then. . .stuff happens. It’s cleverly written and imaginative, and have I mentioned that I just CAN’T WAIT for E. Lockhart’s next book, We Were Liars? Yes, I know it comes out May 13th, but patience is NOT MY STRONG SUIT.

4. The Wild Queen: The Days and Nights of Mary, Queen of Scots by Carolyn Meyer

If I had to name my favorite writers of historical fiction, they would probably be Ann Rinaldi and Carolyn Meyer. Carolyn Meyer’s books are most likely what caused me to fall in love with reading about major figures of history, like Elizabeth I and Marie-Antoinette. Her books span years, taking the reader from her subjects’ childhoods to their adult years, encompassing betrayals, romances, and inheritances of various thrones. As you can probably tell, this one centers on Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. Trust me when I say these books can suck you in. Meyer makes the characters come to life, and writes very, very well. I also love her quartet of books on various women of the Tudor family (starting with Patience, Princess Catherine), Loving Will Shakespeare (about Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway), and The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie-Antoinette. I admittedly didn’t really like Victoria Rebels all that much, but those previously mentioned I loved. (Review here.)

5. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Well, yes, technically this is a series. But STILL. The first book is Dealing with Dragons (earlier review here), in which the reader is introduced to Princess Cimorene, who is pretty sick of this whole roytaly thing. She’s not allowed to fence, she’s not allowed to learn magic, and all in all she finds it extremely dull. So dull, in fact, that she runs away to live with a dragon. The adventures of Cimorene and those she meets continue throughout the series, involving slimy wizards, troublesome knights, and cherries jubilee. Patricia C. Wrede writes cleverly and imaginatively, and I especially love Cimorene’s attitude. These were some of my favorite fantasy books when I was younger, and I very well may reread them someday. I think they’d be enjoyable at any age. (I also really like the book Wrede wrote with Caroline Stevermer, Sorcery and Cecilia. It’s set in Regency England. And there’s magic.)

6. Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes

I’m also thinking about rereading this, seeing as I first read it so long ago, and really, really liked it. Tortilla Sun tells the story of Izzy, who is spending the summer with her grandma in New Mexico while her Mom is doing research in Costa Rica. As Izzy explores the village and makes new friends, she learns more about her culture and her family, also while trying to solve the mystery of her father’s old baseball that reads simply, “Because. . .magic.” Jennifer Cervantes’s writing is truly awesome, and at the time I wondered why more people didn’t know about it. I’ll probably be checking it out again soon. 🙂 (Review here.)

7. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Okay, so I have mentioned this book numerous times. But if you have any interest at all in reading about an eleven-year-old girl living on a somewhat lonely estate in 1950s England, who also has an acute interest in chemistry and gets involved in solving murders quite a bit, then this is probably for you. Flavia de Luce loves chemistry, particularly poisons, and in the sprawling estate of Buckshaw that she shares with the rest of her family, that’s probably what she likes to deal with best. And then a dead man turns up on the doorstep, and things get exciting. Flavia has a great voice, and the plot and the characters are just as awesome. Not to mention the covers, man. Plus, it’s a SERIES.

8. Monster by Walter Dean Myers

If you haven’t read Walter Dean Myers, YOU ARE MISSING OUT. This is the first book I read by him, and it definitely shows why he was the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2012-2013. Monster centers around Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in jail for murder. The story is told through Steve’s journal entries, a script he’s writing for a movie, and the occasional photo, taking the reader through his trial. It’s striking and intelligent and imaginative, and just GO READ IT. AND BE ENLIGHTENED. Carmen is pretty amazing as well.(Review here.)

9. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

So you might have thought the amount of gushing I can do over this book had hit its limit. But apparently, nope! NEVER. Because this is probably one of the best books I have ever read. Told through the lives of a number of gay boys, and narrated from the perspective of the gay generation that came before them, Two Boys Kissing is filled with wonderful use of language and intenseness and beauty and ugly and just freaking read it GOD.

10. March: Book One by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

I can’t believe I haven’t written a review of this yet, and I definitely need to get on that soon. March is a graphic novel about the civil rights movement, shown through the eyes of Congressman John Lewis, one of its foremost leaders. It takes the reader from his childhood to his older years, offering a remarkable and unique perspective on the movement and life during that time. Lewis is a great storyteller, and Nate Powell’s pictures add a whole new element to the book, which is probably one of the most striking ones I’ve ever read. It’s awesome and wonderful and you should READ IT. Now. And when does the next book come out?

So, there you have it. 10 books I think you should read. I suppose that’s it for today. And if you actually made it to the end of this gargantuan post, congratulations! It really just kept getting longer and longer. . .

Anyway, I hope you all have a lovely Friday! The weekend is almost here. Take heart.

Bookish Quotes of the Day: “There is no Frigate like a Book/To take us Lands away.” —There is no frigate like a book (1263) by Emily Dickinson

P.S. Also This Star Won’t Go Out. And absolutely any book by Gary D. Schmidt (because he’s amazing).

My Favorite Books (Of 2013)

New Year's Fireworks
2014 is coming!

Hi everybody!

I’m a little late with this, aren’t I?

Actually, more like mammothly late, but I suppose I’m nothing if not a chronic procrastinator. And generally lazy. It’ll probably say that on my headstone. (Just kidding. I’m immortal, duh. It would also say that I spend too much time joking at the beginnings of blog posts.)

But, here it is! These are some of the books I read this year that I really, really loved. It’s probably a little late to get them as presents (>looks sheepish<), but if you fancy a trip to the library while you’re on vacation, then by all means. . .

Here we go!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Why yes, we are starting with the obvious!

Eleanor & Park is not only one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year, it’s one of my favorites, period. It features two outsiders on a school bus, and comic books, and music, and love, and I could go on forever about its various awesome traits. It’s one of those books where I couldn’t even sleep after finishing it, because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The characters are all marvelously written, and Rowell has a way of writing that is seriously addictive. REALLY addictive. See also: Fangirl.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I couldn’t read this book right before bedtime. That should say something.

At the center of The Name of the Star is Aurora Deveaux, a.k.a. Rory, who is just starting to attend a boarding school in London(!). And, on the same day she arrives in England, a murder is committed. But not just any murder–this one appears to be an imitation of one of the Jack the Ripper murders from way back when. But the murderer isn’t going to stop there, and neither is Rory after she thinks she sees the man who might be responsible. Complete with gore, mystery, romance, and FANTASTIC characters (seriously, I love the characters), this book is definitely one I really enjoyed. (I’ve just started Devilish, too, and so far it seems just as good.)

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

You know how I said Rainbow Rowell’s writing is addictive? Well, Walter Dean Myers’ is, too. Monster tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenager in New York City who’s on trial for murder. Told through Steve’s journal entries, a script he’s writing, and the rare photo, the reader is shown a detailed, eye-opening look at what it’s like to be in jail, especially when you’re as young as Steve. It’s just really, really, really good, as well as striking. I’m pretty sure Myers might be one of the best writers around. Ever.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

This book was kind of like watching the Sherlock mini-episode yesterday–it filled me with feelings that I did not know what to do with, it consumed a large amount of my thoughts, and it made me want to bawl. Oh, and it killed me a little inside, that too. But in a good way! In a really really good way!

Two Boys Kissing tells a number of stories, and it doesn’t focus on any one character or couple–there’s Avery and Ryan, who have just met; there’s Neil and Peter, who have been dating for a while; there’s Harry and Craig, who are trying to set the Guinness World Record for the longest kiss. . .and then there’s Cooper, who doesn’t really have anyone but his computer and phone and the Internet. Narrated in a very particular and enlightening point of view, this book is just filled with revelations and stories and GAH GAH GAH. (No, really, that’s how I felt while reading it.) (For good reasons.) And as if the great plot and characters weren’t enough, the writing itself is enough to make you want to cry. Go. Go read it. Go read it now.

Carmen by Walter Dean Myers

Now, I know what you might be thinking: “Hey, she already has a book by this guy on here!” Well, see how I now have two? That means you really have to read him now!

Carmen is a modern-day retelling of the opera of the same name, set in New York City. Told in script form, and even containing musical scores, it’s a really cool way of telling the tragic story. It goes pretty fast (definitely pretty fast), but the characters and the story are all great. (I especially love Carmen. She’s just so much fun to read.) I love the settings and the imagery, too, and it all just combines to make something really enjoyable and well done. Walter Dean Myers is just amazing. Hey, you, you! Go read it.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I have professed my love for John Green many a-time, and I have also now professed my love for David Levithan. And now look! A book! Written by both of them! Both!

In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, each of these authors writes from the point of view of one teenage boy–both named Will Grayson. When they meet one night in Chicago, each of their lives goes a little. . .insane. Or, at least, becomes rather different.

Both John Green and David Levithan are insanely good writers on their own, and I loved their characters and the plot. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is hilarious, but it also has a measure of seriousness too, as well as some really, really good quotes, about everything from best friends to depression. (Pretty much all the books on this list have amazing quotes.)(“Some people have lives; others have music.”) So, I’m going to tell you what I’ll probably tell you about any of either of these guys’ books–read it! Now! Soon! Soon-ish! ASAP!

Please?

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Ah, Good Omens. The funniest book ever written about the end of the world. Period.

I brook no arguments.

Possibly my favorite parts of this book (okay, definitely my favorite parts of this book) are Crowley and Aziraphale. (Who I ship as much as I ship John Watson/Sherlock.) Crowley is a Bentley-driving, sunglasses-wearing, mischief-making demon. Aziraphale is a book-loving, cocoa-drinking angel. They’re pretty much one of the best duos ever written about. They also don’t want the world to end.

This book is about how they attempt to prevent that from happening, and along the way, the reader is introduced to a number of interesting and rather singular characters. For instance, there’s Shadwell, a Witchfinder Sergeant. There’s Anathema Device, a psychic. There’s Adam; he’s the Antichrist. All of these characters are hilarious, they’re written really, really well, and the plot is great, and do you see where I’m going with this?

So those are some of my favorite books that I read in 2013. I hope you all are having a great holiday, and here’s to all the books coming out in 2014!

Bye!

P.S. Here’s a really, really amazing video to look at and pass around:

P.P.S. Terry Pratchett has said that he would like Benedict Cumberbatch to play Aziraphale if Good Omens were to be adapted into a movie. >freaks out<

Presenting. . .BEA!

Hi! So a couple weeks ago I was in NYC for few days. What for? BEA of course!

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BEA, a.k.a. Book Expo America, is a yearly convention attended by sales representatives, editors, book buyers, book sellers, and many other people who work in publishing. And, of course, some of my favorite people ever–authors!

BEA has taken place in the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York for the last few years, and this year was no different. I have to say, the Javits Center was kind of overwhelming to walk into. Mostly because it’s huge and I was walking into Book Expo America. So, just a little overwhelming!

So anyway, as I was getting over the entire holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap-holy-crap phase (which took a while), we (that is, my parents and I) walked the floor.

Here’s basically what BEA looks like: Everywhere there are booths. Booths, booths, booths. HarperCollins booths, a McSweeney’s booth, Scholastic booths, here a booth, there a booth, everywhere a booth-booth. So yeah, there were A LOT of booths:

The Smithsonian Books booth.
The Smithsonian Books booth!
A Scholastic booth--one of several, I recall.
One of the Scholastic booths.
Welcome to the Chronicle Books Empire of Booths: Way More Advanced Than The Romans. Cuter Logo, Too.
Welcome to the Chronicle Books Empire of Booths: Way more advanced than the Romans. Cuter logo, too.

There were also a few stages for special presentations, etc. And then there was the Autograph Area, where authors would sign their new books (!!!):

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Which, of course, didn’t make me happy at all. You can see some of said authors below!

The really amazing and nice Walter Dean Myers, author of many, many books for children and teens. See that medal he's wearing? He's the Ambassador for Young People's Literature!
The really amazing and nice Walter Dean Myers, author of many, many books for children and teens. See that medal he’s wearing? He’s the Ambassador for Young People’s Literature!
Kate DiCamillo, the awesome author of "Because of Winn Dixie," "The Tale of Despereaux," and (this is a particular favorite of mine), "The Miraculous Jounrey of Edward Tulane"!
Kate DiCamillo, the awesome author of “Because of Winn Dixie,” “The Tale of Despereaux,” and (and this is a particular favorite of mine), “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were also authors signing in their publishers’ booths, such as. . .

Larry Kane, famed journalist and broadcaster. This is him with his new book, "When They Were Boys," an account of the Beatles' rise to fame. Kane was the only American journalist with the Beatles at every stop on their '64 and '65 tours of America, and is referred to as the "dean of Philadelphia. . .news anchors.
Larry Kane, famed journalist and broadcaster. This is him with his new book, “When They Were Boys,” an account of the Beatles’ rise to fame. Kane was the only American journalist with the Beatles at each stop on their ’64 and ’65 tours of America, and is referred to as the “dean of Philadelphia television news anchors.”
Brandon Sanderson, the hilarious author of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians! (Which I loved. And reviewed. Forever ago, but still!) He was signing copies of his first novel for teens, "The Rithmatist."
Brandon Sanderson, the hilarious author of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians! (Which I loved. And reviewed. Forever ago.) He was signing copies of his first novel for teens, “The Rithmatist.”
Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, an online comic, during the signing of his book “My Dog: A Paradox,” which is SO TRUE. WARNING: NOT appropriate for kids, and only some of his other comics are appropriate for teens.
This is congressman John Lewis, a really, really, really, REALLY amazing guy who was one of the most avid and foremost supporters of the Civil Rights Movement, during which he sustained more than 40 attacks, injuries, and arrests. He was there signing a sample booklet featuring an upcoming graphic novel called "March: Book One,"an account of his experiences with the Movement, which I am very much looking forward to reading.
This is Congressman John Lewis, a really, really, really, REALLY amazing guy who was one of the most avid and foremost architects of the Civil Rights Movement. He was there signing a sample booklet featuring his upcoming graphic novel, titled “March: Book One.” This is an account of his experiences during the Movement, which I am very much looking forward to reading.
Ransom Riggs, author of "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," a really cool and creative book that is, yes, rather peculiar. The sequel comes out in January 2014!
Ransom Riggs, author of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” a really cool and creative book that is, yes, rather peculiar. The sequel comes out in January 2014!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, BEA isn’t just for freaking out about the authors there. Those attending it exchange business cards, talk about work, and, you know, actually DO work–that’s what most of the people there are sent to do! Of course, a lot of the time, people are also finding their friends and catching up.

This might seem kind of obvious, but there is just so much to see at BEA. SO MUCH. The presentations, the authors, the booths. (Which, by the way, I don’t even feel like I should be calling booths. Some of those things are HUGE. They’re like Booths 2.o.) Anyway, it’s A LOT.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s stuff like this:

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And this:

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AND this:

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A truck. Full of books. With penguins all over it.

Which is probably one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. It’s like someone just took everything awesome in this world, mashed it together, waved a magic wand over it and POOF! Book truck!

Also, BEA doesn’t always end when the center closes its doors for the day. Sometimes there are events set up for afterwards, too. One of these was We Are Young: Tumblr Does YA at BEA, a party and reading at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe featuring Eliot Schrefer, Ruth Baron, and. . .Rainbow Rowell! Who, if you’re not sure, is the amazing author who wrote the equally amazing Eleanor & Park. (Which you should go read. Like right now.)

Anyway, Eliot Schrefer was reading from his book Endangered, Ruth Baron was reading from her book Defriended, and Rainbow Rowell was reading from (of course) Eleanor & Park. I didn’t take many pictures, but this is what it looked like from the front door:

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We didn’t get to stay for the actual reading, BUT. . .

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AND. . .

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She was at BEA the next day, signing ARCs of her newest book!*

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So those two occurrences made me rather giddy.

Really, probably the best thing about BEA and all the special events that come with it is the fact that so many of the people there actually care about books. No one is going to scoff at you for loving what you love, no one is going to say books are dead, no one is going to say they much prefer video games (I think), etc. For once, it seems like the world thinks books are important, while too often, it appears otherwise.

Remember earlier, when I said authors are some of my favorite people ever? It’s not just authors. It’s all the editors, agents, sales reps, book sellers, book buyers, and everyone else at BEA who help keep the book world moving. And, of course, the readers. The fourth grader engrossed in Percy Jackson at the library. The nurse rereading Great Expectations during his lunch break. The teenager staying up way too late to finish the The Diviners. They help too!

Also, some of these people work largely behind the scenes, and I mean LARGELY. Without a dedicated sales rep, an agent, or a good publicist, a book may never make it to your shelf. So they deserve some credit!

But I digress. The point I’m making is that at BEA, it’s like you’re living in some surreal universe where books are actually given their due, as valuable facets of our world. And that’s pretty freakin’ amazing.

Although, you know, I could be exaggerating. I did spend the last two years of my life trapped in the dismal depths of middle school, after all. (Although I did meet a lot of great people there. . .but again, I digress. I need to stop doing that.)

Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll be making it to BEA next year, but here’s a tip for you: One day each year, it’s open to the public! You’ll have to pay, but still! It’s BEA, after all!

I suppose that about winds it up for this post. That took a while! Everyone have a great Monday! (And don’t tell me that “great Monday” is an oxymoron. There are exceptions!)

P.S. Here’s the BEA website, and here’s their blog, The BEAN.

*An ARC is an Advance Reader’s Copy, or the nearly-final stage of a book before it’s published. They’re very very close to what the book will be when it’s actually put on the shelves, but they usually have a few typos or maybe a slightly different quote. They’re also called Advance Uncorrected Proofs, Advance Uncorrected Galleys, etc.

Literary Quote of the Day: “We walked silent/to the buses, awed by the power of words.” —How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson

Monster

Hello all. So I had been meaning to read a book by Walter Dean Myers for a while, but I really wanted to after I saw him at the National Book Festival last year. He was definitely interesting to listen to, and his book sounded equally intriguing. So I got one from the library. The book in question is Monster, the story of teenage Steve Harmon, whose life may be a tad different from yours. He’s in jail.

The book tells the story of how he ended up there, as well as what’s it like for Steve, being on trial for murder and all. For me, it was kind of like Night, by Elie Wiesel, in that it offered an up-close and personal look at what it’s like for a kid going through an awful and striking experience, the kind of look that sort of smacks you in the face and makes you think, “Wow.” Myers really succeeds in making his story seem real, which is one of the best things about it. The book is also written in a unique format. It’s a mash-up of Steve’s journal entries and the script for a movie he’s writing, to help him cope with what he’s going through. At first, I was worried that this would take away from the enjoyment of the book, but it didn’t; it was actually pretty interesting. The plot is gripping, especially since Myers continuously holds off on letting the reader know if Steve is actually guilty or not. The characters are just as well-written and interesting, and Myers definitely manages to make Steve, a suspected criminal, a human being, despite the prosecutor’s assessment of him–that he’s a monster. One of the other things I liked about the book was that it offered a look at life in and relating to the courtroom that was pretty new for me, which only makes the book better. All in all, I would definitely suggest you read Monster. It’s an important book, and it deserves it.

Literary Quote of the Day: “When you’re young, you make mistakes. The big thing that’s different now is that when I was a kid, you could survive your mistakes. We didn’t have guns. Today, kids have access to guns. The same kids that would have been in trouble and gotten a stern talking-to are now going to jail for fifteen or twenty years. Instead of bloody noses there are bodies lying in the street with chalk outlines around them. The values are basically the same, but it’s easier to mess up.” –Walter Dean Myers