Allison's Book Bag

145th Street by Walter Dean Myers

Posted on: February 5, 2013

The way I see it, things happen on 145th street that don’t happen anywhere else in the world.

What kind of things happen on the fictional street that Myers has created in his short story collection: 145th Street? Some are hilarious such as those recounted in Big Joe’s Funeral and in The Streak. In the first, Big Joe decides to cancel his life insurance, collect eighteen thousand dollars, and throw himself a funeral the way people throw a party. Peaches doesn’t think Big Joe should mess around with death, which isn’t a conflict that seems as if it would be all that funny. Except after Peaches puts up a sign “Big Joe is not dead,” she runs into Mother Fletcher who agrees by saying, “You’re right, child. The flesh fades but the spirit lives onto his eternal reward.” No one else listens to Peaches either, believing instead that Big Joe is truly dead, and the subsequent events which unfold are a hoot. In the Big Streak, Froggy blows a basketball game for his school, accidentally breaks a bottle in the locker room, drops a slide in biology class…. Yes, Froggy is on a bad streak. Froggy’s friend believes that for every bad streak, there’s a good streak. Sure enough, Froggy throws an egg into a carton without breaking it, passes a surprise math quiz, and…. Now he just needs to ask out the hot girl before his luck runs out.

Other things which happen are tragic such as those recounted in Fighter and in The Baddest Dog in Harlem. In the story Fighter, Billy is a boxer, who once found fights exciting but now the nervousness over them has turned to nausea. Moreover, his wife has asked him to stop accepting fights. Yet in the opening scene, Billy is headed back to the ring. Why? Because he knows that the money he earns will allow him to keep saying yes to his wife’s requests, dreams, and plans. Fight stories aren’t exactly my normal reading fare, and this one is about the inevitable match that Billy faces which costs him his health, but the realistic portrayal of Billy’s pain is vividly written. Also, there’s a beautiful scene between Billy and his wife that makes the whole story worth the read. In The Baddest Dog in Harlem, the story starts with innocent chatter between a few young people about who’s the best fighter of all time. Then two police cars tear around the corner and the action begins. However, The Baddest Dog in Harlem doesn’t play out the way one might expect, with white policeman hassling black young people or worse beating them up. The narrator even nonchalantly observes, “After a while that gets boring, so when the cops arrive like this is breaks up the day nice.” The police keep looking for the shooter, one lady complains about her drapes being riddled with bullets, but nothing seems particularly bad. This is a heart-wrenching story for which tissues aren’t enough. Yet, The Baddest Dog in Harlem is so haunting, you must read it.

One of my favorite stories is a love story entitled Kitty and Mack. Romances aren’t my normal reading fare, any more than fight stories. This is one of the best, up there with Romeo and Juliet. Myers introduces us to Mack, a basketball player, and then Kitty who reads Mack a love poem. The two date and make plans for the future. Then there’s an accident, whose contrivance is worth overlooking because of the depiction of what happens next in this young couple’s relationship. As you might expect in a story real to life, Mack becomes despondent and even rejects Kitty. What you might not expect is how Kitty reacts, how Mack reacts in turn to her, and exactly how this relationship pans out because of that accident.

I have now described five of the ten stories in 145th Street by Walter Dean Myers. Five just as fascinating tales remain for you to discover. All ten stories will usher you into a different world with unique people and places. They might also inspire you to think about what things are happening on your own street today.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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8 Responses to "145th Street by Walter Dean Myers"

Thanks for sharing this post in the Kid Lit Blog Hop – it’s nice to see a collection of short stories in the Hop. What ages would you say these books for for?

I’d recommend 145th Street to teenagers. Some of the stories are about romantic love and some have violence. Although there aren’t any sex scenes or gratuitous violence, many of the stories do have mature themes.

I’ve heard great things about Walter Dean Myers. I will try to hunt this book down. Thanks for the great review and for linking up to the Kid Lit Blog Hop!

Please check back over the next two weeks. I’ll review up to six of Myers’ books in that time. How I wish I could review all he has written, but he’s a prolific writer with more than fifty books to his name.

Hi Allison! I’d like to invite you to link up this post to the Kid Lit Blog Hop, a bi-monthly feature that I co-host. You can find all the details here:
http://motherdaughterbookreviews.com/kid-lit-blog-hop-9/

Thanks! I linked up the post. Unfortunately, I also ran into difficulties with the image and ended up with multiple copies of my link. 😦

No worries! The duplicate has already been deleted. 🙂

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