Monday, September 13, 2010

THE CRUISERS by Walter Dean Myers

DaVinci Academy in Harlem is focused on gifted and talented learners.  Unfortunately, Zander Scott and a few of his friends are not making the grade.  They haven't been performing up to their potential lately, and the principal is about to make an example of their lax study habits by kicking them out.  The four friends must find a way to prove themselves.

They are given the opportunity when the school begins a unit about the Civil War.  Students are becoming divided along racial lines.  As they study the historic conflict, the school itself is reenacting the events by taking sides - the Union and the Confederacy.  Zander, Kambui, LaShonda, and Bobbi are given the task of making peace between the two sides.  The challenge is to create the peace within school rules and without any resulting violent behavior.  But with tempers running on high and tension reminiscent of the slave owners versus the abolitionists, they have their work cut out for them.

In addition to the battle going on in the classroom, Zander is fighting his own battle on the home front.  His father is threatening to sue for full custody if his mother doesn't demonstrate that she can meet the financial and educational needs required to parent his son.  The last thing Zander wants is to move from Harlem to Seattle.

THE CRUISERS is book #1 in a new series by Walter Dean Myers.  At less than 130 pages it is written in a unique blend of narrative combined with articles and writing assignments from students at DaVinci Academy.  Readers will get a taste of Harlem life along with the familiar classroom subject of the Civil War.  If they develop a connection with the characters, they'll want to keep an out for book #2 KING'S GAMBIT.

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