In Memoriam: Walter Dean Myers

Walter Dean Myers died today at 76.

As it happens, my daughters, 8 and 11, are reading about him now. Sharon Creech’s novel in poems Love that Dog is about a reluctant reader and writer who comes to see the power of poetry by reading Walter Dean Myers’ poem, “Love that Boy.”

Just this morning, my older daughter was telling me, again, the plot of the book. She’d been enthusiastic about it three years ago when she read it in school and not, reading it to her sister, a less precocious reader, she’s enjoying it all over again.

The story hinges on a boy forced to write poetry in a unit in school. Walter Dean Myers work lies at the heart of his transformation from reluctant reader into proud poet.

The best tribute on a writer’s passing is to read his work, so do that first. Then, if you have a young reader in your life, I recommend Love that Dog.

Or, we can just start here (the poem, which I grabbed from here, is reprinted in Creech’s book):

Love That Boy by Walter Dean Myers
Love that boy,
like a rabbit loves to run
I said I love that boy
like a rabbit loves to run
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him
"Hey there, son!"

He walk like his Grandpa,
Grins like his Uncle Ben.
I said he walk like his Grandpa,
And grins like his Uncle Ben.
Grins when he’s happy,
When he sad, he grins again.

His mama like to hold him,
Like to feed him cherry pie.
I said his mama like to hold him.
Like to feed him that cherry pie.
She can have him now,
I’ll get him by and by

He got long roads to walk down
Before the setting sun.
I said he got a long, long road to walk down
Before the setting sun.
He’ll be a long stride walker,
And a good man before he done.