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Harlem Summer Hardcover – March 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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. Martin, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

It's the summer of 1925, and it is "hotter than a two-dollar pistol" in Harlem. It's particularly uncomfortable for 16-year-old Mark Purvis when the boat that he has been hired to unload turns out to contain bootleg whiskey. Before you can say Prohibition, the booze vanishes, and Mark finds himself in serious trouble with its owner, mobster Dutch Schultz. In the meantime, Mark finds a job working for W. E. B. DuBois' magazine, the Crisis. There he meets leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance--writers such as Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes, who, he is told, are exemplars of the "New Negro." Mark doesn't care if he's a New Negro or an old one as long as he can make music like his friend Fats Waller--but the rapidly changing world of the Roaring Twenties keeps getting in his way. Myers has a wonderful time poking affectionately satirical fun at the legends and legendary figures of a revolutionary decade that Zelig-like Mark keeps encountering. Readers will be delighted to accompany the teen on his action-packed adventures. Michael Cart
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 165 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 043936843X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439368438
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,272,833 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.

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#56 in Books > Teens
#56 in Books > Teens

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mary Hollowell on January 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Mark is at a crossroads in his life in Harlem in the 1920s. He has the dream of becoming a great saxophone player but doesn't have the discipline to practice. His hero, Fats, cons him into loading bootleg liquor onto a truck, and when the truck goes missing, a gangster threatens them. Mark isn't terribly worried, at first.

He goes with the flow and dutifully starts a summer job, arranged by his aunt, at The Crisis magazine, headed by W.E.B. DuBois. Mark encounters many other greats such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Ethel Waters. He attends a glamorous party at the home of publisher Alfred Knopf and just misses hearing Marian Anderson sing.

In a marvelous twist ending, Mark is freed from a life of crime, and inspired by great writers and singers, he comes to appreciate hard work and his own community. Walter Dean Myers gives us the Harlem Renaissance as seen through the eyes of a tremendously likeable main character. It is a treat to read the conversations between the young Mark and Langston Hughes. (Photographs of the real famous and infamous characters, during this time period, are included in an appendix.) Mark is a teenager that other teens can relate to; he doesn't have quite enough drive until he finds the right role models. Harlem Summer is filled with humor, glamour, and danger and recreates an important era in the twentieth century.
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Format: Hardcover
It's 1925 in Harlem, New York when readers are transported into the life of Mark, the main character of HARLEM SUMMER. Told from his point of view, this coming-of-age story features Harlem Renaissance figures such as Langston Hughes, Jesse Fauset, and Fats Waller.

As the book opens, summer has arrived, Mark, an aspiring sax player who wants to make it big. He gets an opportunity to work for Fats Waller, an already established and widely sought after musician, hauling crates. Though the job with Fats is a one day thing, it has a lasting impact on Mark's summer and introduces him to a number of unsavory characters and exposes him to life on the "shady side of the street." Around the same time, Mark lands a job at The Crisis magazine (the NAACP publication). He would be working under the supervision of Jesse Fauset as more or less an errand boy. At the magazine office, Mark learns about the "New Negro" for the first time, meets a virtual who's who of that movement, and experiences what life on the "sunny side of the street" was like. Mark is at a crossroads in his life, trying to figure out what he wants to be and how to live. The experiences with Fats, The Crisis, and the ensuing dramas force Mark to make decisions about how he wants to live his life.

HARLEM SUMMER is a wonderful book that pairs historical fiction with the day-to-day struggles of a teenager trying to find his place in life. Mark's character has a universal appeal, and his voice is genuine and humorous. At the end of the book there are brief biographical sketches and photos of many of the famous people who find their way in the story. Walter Dean Myers has written a funny and engaging tale that reminds us that all of our decisions have consequences and that life on the shady side of the street isn't always what it is cracked up to be.

Reviewed by Stacey Seay

of The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on February 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By N. S. VINE VOICE on April 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"As soon as the news got round

The folks downtown,

Came up to Harlem,

Saw everyone Truckin'

It didn't take long

Before the high-hats were doing it,

'Park Avenuing' it,

All over town,

You see them shufflin,' shufflin,' shufflin' down."

--"Truckin' " written by Rube Bloom and Ted Koehler, and performed by Fats Waller

These days the course is listed as, "Afrocentric Perspectives in the Arts." Back in the spring of 1975 it was titled "Black Experience in the Arts." A couple of guys in my dorm at the University of Connecticut had heard that "Black Arts" was an easy class, if only because the lectures were of a civilized nature, being that their frequency was but once a week and they were held IN THE EVENING rather at some ungodly hour that might involve having to wake up in order to attend class.

My dormmates persuaded me to tack the class on to my already full schedule for that semester. That way, if they were too busy to show up on a particular evening, they'd be able to copy my notes.

Back in the spring of 1975 I was a teenager who owed so much of my sensibilities to having grown up tolerant in lily white northern suburbs and having spent the 1960s watching the horrific news on television of white "Christians" engaged in the beating, maiming, and slaughtering of Negroes and Negro sympathizers during the Civil Rights era.

But while I knew a lot about what American citizens of color had endured before and during my childhood, I hadn't a clue at the beginning of my semester in Black Experience in the Arts of the existence of the Harlem Renaissance, nor any knowledge of the colorful characters whose work defined this rich cultural period in American history.
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