By Dan Haley
Walter Dean Myers, author of the novel Monster which is currently the subject of some controversy in Oak Park public schools, was named the "national ambassador for young people's literature" in 2012 according to a profile of Myers in the New York Times.
The recognition called for Myers to spend two years traveling the country talking at schools and at libraries about the importance of literacy. The Times reported that two groups created the post and that Myers was the third person chosen to fill the role. The Center for the Book at the Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader collaborated in the effort.
Myers, now 75, was born in West Virginia but grew up in Harlem and the Times story quotes him saying he carried books home from the local library in a paper bag because he would be teased and bullied if seen carrying books. "I felt a little ashamed, having books."
Myers, who is African-American, did not complete high school but has been a lifelong reader and writer. The article reports that while Myers has written both poetry and children's books, that he is best known for his young adult work which often focuses on the lives of urban teens. His books can have a "hard-edged realism," said Robin Adelson, executive director of the Children's Book Council, in explaining why she admired his work.
In Oak Park a small group of middle school parents have objected to the inclusion of Monster in the school reading curriculum. District 97 administrators have reviewed the book and judged it to be a worthy selection though they have offered parents who object an alternative choice.