Just for kids YAK'S CORNER

June 01, 1998|By Cassandra Spratling | Cassandra Spratling,Knight Ridder/Tribune

Author has the write stuff; YAK CHAT

The Yak loves reading and meeting some authors of your favorite books. Today, the Yak talks with children's book author Walter Dean Myers.

Sometimes his work is fact; other times it's fantasy. Sometimes he uses photos of children with his wonderful words and poems. That's true of his new book, "Angel to Angel: A Mother's Gift of Love" (HarperCollins, $15.95).

When did you start writing?

I was 8 or 9 years old. It was a hobby. I didn't think of it as a career possibility. I did it off and on for years until 1977, when I devoted full attention to it.

How did you get the idea for the angel books?

In the early 1990s, I did a writing workshop for middle school kids here in Jersey City (New Jersey. That's where he lives). Most of the students were black and Puerto Rican. I noticed they were writing some pretty nasty remarks about themselves. Things like, "You're so black, you're toasty!" Yet they could parrot the idea that black is beautiful, but I don't think they really believed it. Too many of the images they were seeing of black children were of kids in the cotton fields in rags or in other very bad conditions. I said, "I can tell these kids black is beautiful, but if I present photographs, that's far more convincing."

What kind of grades did you get in school?

I got decent grades. Nothing to brag about. But I was a good reader and I loved reading.

What advice do you give to kids today who want to become writers?

I want children to know writing is something that can be learned. Until I met Langston Hughes and began reading James Baldwin, I didn't know I could become a writer. They gave me permission to say I can write about my own people and my own neighborhood. So often when I go to schools, I ask little boys what they want to be when they grow up. They want to be NBA stars because the NBA and Michael Jordan have given them permission to become basketball players. We need to give kids permission to find success in other areas.

Why did the cabbage leave?

Because it saw the banana split.

What animal is always cold?

A burra-a-cuda.

What do you call a rabbit with fleas?

Bugs Bunny.

Pub Date: 6/01/98

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