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Handbook for Boys: A Novel Hardcover – May 7, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Returning to the setting for his 145th Street: Short Stories, Myers (Monster) constructs a penetrating profile of a community through the brief appearances of characters who file through Duke Wilson's barbershop. The author juxtaposes a sketch of 16-year-old narrator Jimmy Lynch's home life with nuggets of wisdom delivered by the barber with wit and tact. As the novel opens, Jimmy is about to be assigned to a youth facility for six months, until Duke offers to take him into his "community mentoring program." Initially Jimmy and Kevin, another teen whom Duke mentors, call the shop the "Torture Chamber." But as Jimmy shows up to the shop day after day at 3:30 p.m. to sweep, hang old photographs on the wall and polish spitoons, his anger and resistance erode and he begins to absorb Duke's advice. Organized into chapters with titles as straightforward as "Victims" (featuring a man who is evicted and whose marriage is in trouble because he "just go[es] from day to day to see what event [he] stumble[s] into," in Duke's words) and as humorous as "The Blind Monkey Strut" and "Froggy Goes A Courting," the novel introduces various customers from ex-cons to a millionaire who demonstrate specific life lessons. Jimmy's change in attitude is gradual and credible, and his tenuous friendship with Kevin takes an unexpectedly poignant turn when Kevin falls back into trouble. The author's instructional prefatory note may be offputting, but once inside the book, readers will be hooked. Ages 10-up.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 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, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; English Language edition (May 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006029146X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060291464
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,228,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Walter Dean Myers is a New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author who has garnered much respect and admiration for his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young people. Winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award, he is considered one of the preeminent writers for children. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his family.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
5 star
42%
4 star
47%
3 star
11%
2 star
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See all 19 customer reviews
The overall tone of the book is conversational, but can be too didactic and preachy at times.
Sara H
I liked that Duke and his friends were really bright and articulate, and had interesting discussions about free will, philosophy, and the way the world works.
A. Luciano
I liked this book because it really makes you think about how you want to end up in your how life.
Reese

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Luciano VINE VOICE on June 30, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Jimmy is a black city kid, living with just his mother. One day he gets into a fight at high school and really does some damage to the other kid. The school takes this fight very seriously, and Jimmy begins to worry that he may have really messed up his life by having the fight. A local man named Duke who owns a barbershop offers to be Jimmy's mentor.

Every day after school, Jimmy goes to the barbershop to clean up and listen to Duke and his old friends talk about the people who come in to get their hair cut. Another high-schooler is also there--Kevin is something of a know-it-all superstar who Duke has promised to send to college in exchange for working at the shop. Kevin is in trouble, too, though, for smoking marijuana and Duke has agreed to mentor him to keep him out of juvenile detention.

As the boys work, they become more annoyed with Duke and his friends. It seems like nobody can come into the shop without Duke and the others saying bad things about him when he leaves. They talk about how the problems these men have are their own fault, and they drag Jimmy and Kevin into discussions about choices and deciding the direction your life is going to take. Jimmy tries to tune them out at first, but then he begins thinking more and more about what they have said. Does he really need a plan so his own life will go the way he wants? Does he know how to get to where he wants to go?

I liked that Duke and his friends were really bright and articulate, and had interesting discussions about free will, philosophy, and the way the world works. I also liked that the city seemed to be portrayed realistically--it gave me a much clearer idea of why so many city kids get lost in the system. It's not always that they aren't trying, it's that they don't have anyone to tell them how to succeed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 16, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Great book for teenagers. I was reading this book because for my class you have to read a novel by the end of the 1st quarter and each quarter on. I decided to choose this after the information on the back and the cover interested me. I sure didnt waste my money nor my time. It was a great book that deserves alot of credit. I think for Myers this book was alot better than Monster.

Next I probably will be reading the classics;

Elephant Man, Odyssey,Grapes of Wrath, and Huckleberry Finn.

Read this book teens and even adults!

I think its even funner than most video games!

It teaches you lessons about what to do in certain situations!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on October 3, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The book Handbook for Boys by Walter Dean Myers was a good book. Many of the chapters had people telling the main characters(Duke, Jimmy,Kevin, Mr.M, and Cap)problems in their lives. Once they left the setting the main characters told there opinions on that persons problem. What I liked about this book was that it showed real-life situations with ways to solve your problem. It shows you the ways how to stay out of trouble and ways to succeced.

All the characters in this book have different opinions on how to look at certian situations. For example Duke said that you should read and Cap said that you should not read.

Two of the main characters Duke and Jimmy really got along through out the book. They went many places and helped people in their free time. Jimmy works at the barber shop with Duke, and Kevin. Jimmy is there because he got in trouble and needed help. He also could use the money for his mother and him. One thing that I didnt like about this book was that many of the chapters didn't relate to the other chapters. It was like a bunch of short stories for each chapter. Sometimes it would be difficult to follow some parts in the book.

This book caught my interest and I enjoyed reading it. If I had the chance I would read this book again. Walter Dean Myers is a very good author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sara H on May 13, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Myers, Walter Dean. Handbook for Boys. New York: Harper Collins (2002).
211 pages.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Fry Reading Level: 6

Set in urban New York City, Handbook for Boys follows the story of two boys, Jimmy and Kevin, who get themselves into trouble with law. Instead of going to juvenile detention, the boys have the alternative of performing community service at a local barbershop owned by a man named Duke. Duke takes in young boys that are headed in the wrong direction and uses the time that they work in his shop to teach them important life lessons.

Jimmy narrates the story, giving his reactions to and impressions of the advice that Duke gives. Duke talks about everything from money and sex to personal responsibility versus a victim mentality. He expresses a lot of initial resistance to Duke's lectures, but always ends up reflecting on Duke's advice by the end of the chapter.

Although both Jimmy and Kevin work at the barbershop, they do not get along. They have a competitive, hostile relationship. They also seem to view their time at Duke's barbershop differently. While both of them dislike the menial work they have to do and the constant lectures and ragging they get from Duke and other regulars at the barbershop, Jimmy at least responds to what Duke tells him. Kevin, on the other hand, puts up more resistance to Duke's efforts. For instance, Duke invites Kevin and Jimmy to a basketball game; while both boys feel that Duke merely asked them out of charity, Jimmy actually goes to the game, while Kevin blows Duke off.

At the end of the story, however, the reader sees the effect that Duke has had on Jimmy through the difference in his behavior as compared with Kevin's.
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