Monday, April 25, 2011

Kick by Walter Dean Myers and Ross Workman

Walter Dean Myers has been a best-selling author for years. You can find his work filling award lists including the National Book Award, the Michael Printz award, and multiple American Library Association(ALA) awards to name a few. He is well read by teens and well respected by adult readers. So it was no surprise to me that he turned his most recent book into an opportunity that would expand the idea of serving teen readers: he actually invited a high-school student to write with him.

The back cover of the edition I got from the library shows the email that Ross Workman sent to Walter Dean Myers that started the whole idea cooking. My mind's eye kept me returning that email and the back cover photo time and again as I read. And one question kept coming up: how could Walter Dean Myers be so brilliant? To mentor one teen reader in this way could affect tons of teen writers.

I know how key a thoughtful, engaged mentor can be when it comes to writing. I experienced the gentle, persistent, compelling, knowledgeable guidance when I co-wrote a book with a mentor a few years ago. That experience convinced me I was a writer. I can't imagine how Ross Workman's life has changed now. Even within a You Tube video post from HarperTeen, Myers comments on how Workman is a writer. Powerful stance that Myers holds.

The storyline in Kick works: a young teen gets in trouble with the law and goes into emotional isolation. A cop assigned to work with the teen finds his own growing desire to mentor the youth through his trials in life and ends up finding his role as a healthy, caring adult male important and life changing. As you can imagine from the title, soccer plays a central role in this book. I found myself wondering over and again what position Ross, the co-author, plays in his real-life soccer experiences. I also wondered how many truths this story represented for both of the authors and what the writing process was like for them as they emailed pieces back and forth. As I read, I imagined their voices and the bunches of dialogues throughout the writing process but I couldn't tell who had written which part. The story flows well, and I read it quickly because of the multiple hooks the authors included.

This story would be a great read for both teen girls and boys, and I particularly think folks who like soccer would appreciate the frequent importance of soccer in the growing friendship between the primary character and his mentor. I would have loved reading this book as a teenager. For those of us with writing futures hiding inside of us just waiting for someone to ask us to write with them, I imagine it a close-to-perfect read!

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