Cover image for Harlem summer
Harlem summer
Publication Information:
Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, ℗2014.
Physical Description:
4 audio discs (3 hr., 45 min.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
General Note:
Compact disc.
Added Author:
In 1920s Harlem, sixteen-year-old Mark Purvis, an aspiring jazz saxophonist, gets a summer job as an errand boy for the publishers of the groundbreaking African American magazine, "The Crisis," but soon finds himself on the enemy list of mobster Dutch Shultz.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available

On Order


Author Notes

Walter Dean Myers was born on August 12, 1937 in Martinsberg, West Virginia. When he was three years old, his mother died and his father sent him to live with Herbert and Florence Dean in Harlem, New York. He began writing stories while in his teens. He dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Army at the age of 17. After completing his army service, he took a construction job and continued to write.

He entered and won a 1969 contest sponsored by the Council on Interracial Books for Children, which led to the publication of his first book, Where Does the Day Go? During his lifetime, he wrote more than 100 fiction and nonfiction books for children and young adults. His works include Fallen Angels, Bad Boy, Darius and Twig, Scorpions, Lockdown, Sunrise Over Fallujah, Invasion, Juba!, and On a Clear Day. He also collaborated with his son Christopher, an artist, on a number of picture books for young readers including We Are America: A Tribute from the Heart and Harlem, which received a Caldecott Honor Award, as well as the teen novel Autobiography of My Dead Brother.

He was the winner of the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award for Monster, the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and a recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults. He also won the Coretta Scott King Award for African American authors five times. He died on July 1, 2014, following a brief illness, at the age of 76.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Myers's (Monster) historical novel pays tribute to the many well-known African-Americans on the rise during Harlem's Renaissance, through the eyes of 16-year-old Mark Purvis. It's the summer of 1925, and Mark's family has just received a financial setback, making it impossible to send Mark's older brother to college. Mark wants to help out, but well-paying jobs are hard to find. He thinks his job at The Crisis, a magazine that promotes Dr. W.E.B. DuBois's concept of "the New Negro" is fine, but not very exciting, and while he befriends the poet Langston Hughes, he longs to play jazz with the great Fats Waller. When Fats offers Mark a way to make some fast cash, he feels funny about it ("You didn't make no five dollars in one night unless you were doing something a little on the shady side") but agrees, hoping he can parlay it into a chance to jam with Fats. But the job goes awry and Mark winds up the fall guy. He has to set things right (a shipment of bootleg is stolen) or deal with the mob. Myers's humorous coming-of-age story reflects the paradoxically playful yet dangerous atmosphere of the 1920s. At the same time, readers learn about the many contributions African-Americans have made to this nation, underscored by the brief bios and photos in the concluding pages. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

Its summer 1925, and all teen Mark Purvis wants is the chance to play his sax for Fats Waller. But with his brother about to start college, money is tight in the family. So Mark gets a job at The Crisis, the literary magazine featuring works by the up-and-coming Harlem Renaissance group of New Negros, including Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Mark navigates this new literary world while he dreams of making it big in music. He finds himself being pursued by a gangster after taking part (at Fats Wallers urging) in a bootleg delivery gone awry. Gills charismatic narration of this sometimes funny, often touching coming-of-age novel is so evocative that listeners will feel like they are in 1920s Harlem right alongside Mark. sin gaetano (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

Set in 1925 New York, this tour de force features walk-ons by a bevy of Harlem Renaissance notables. Sax-playing Mark, 16, faces a summer of dreaded toil at his uncle's funeral parlor. Instead, he lands a job at The Crisis, the influential journal of Negro politics and culture edited by W. E. B. DuBois. Mark's oft-clueless, hormone-spiked narrative bumps up against the likes of Langston Hughes, Ethel Waters and--in a pivotal role--Fats Waller, universally liked and slightly shady. Provisionally adopted by The Crisis's literary editor, Miss Jessie Fauset, Mark attends Alfred Knopf's elegant party, which serves up illegal liquor (like the rent parties uptown) and music that gets a little too hot. Mark and friend Henry get mixed up with rival crime bosses when, during a one-time gig arranged by Fats, the bootleg booze they load onto a truck disappears with its driver. Peppered with hilarious dialogue and serving up an exuberant meld of fact and fiction, this works equally well as a stellar addition to the Harlem Renaissance curriculum and a just-for-fun read. (brief descriptions and photos of historical people and places mentioned) (Historical fiction. 12-16) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

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 2007 Booklist