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Booktalking "Riot" by Walter Dean Myers


Riot A protest of the Civil War draft by Walter Dean Myers

My First Booktalk Riot by Walter Dean Myers was my very first real booktalk. I presented it first to kids in a local middle school who seemed to enjoy it. There are powerful voices in the stories, issues of racism and wartime, and best of all, it is written as a screenplay.

Booktalk for Riot by Walter Dean Myers 2009

Have you ever wanted to read a movie? Set in 1863, this screenplay features fictionalized accounts of the riots that were staged in protest of the Civil War drafts. Claire, a 15-year-old African American, has poignant thoughts on the subject.

After being attacked on the streets for being black, she has this to say to her mother:

“If it’s my skin that makes me unsafe, can I take it off & put it in a drawer until the streets are calm again? If it’s my skin that puts me in the sights of murderers, can I change my dress or my apron? Where is this “safe” you’re talking about? And if I’m black and you’re white and that makes me a target, where is this “family” you’re talking about? Where is it, Mum? Where is it?”

And, later, Claire talks about life after the riots:

“Maybe, when this is all over, when the streets are quiet again, we’ll be able to sit down and sort it all out. Maybe one day we can even forget about the ugliness and not worry about what color we are. We can just be the Johnson family, proud owners of the Peacock, the best place in New York City. And anyone who walks through our front door can just be a human being. Just a human being.”

A Riot On Forty-Second Street, Near Broadway.,Riot on 42nd Street, near Broadway., Digital ID 809872, New York Public Library

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Great hook at the beginning

Great hook at the beginning "how would you like to read a movie". I would have liked to hear a little more about what Clair experienced or saw or heard about the riots.

Thanks for the comment! In

Thanks for the comment! In general, booktalks are very brief enticements to read more of the story. I did not want to give away too much of the story, or let the booktalk be too long. Please read the story to find out more about this!

poignant post

It's hard not to feel for Clair, your post makes me want to read Riot even though I normally find the screenplay format hard to get used to. I really admire librarians who do booktalks for kids, from my own experience as a kid, it's something that stays with you long after.

Hi Jeremy! Glad to hear that

Hi Jeremy! Glad to hear that you want to read more of the book. I personally do not recall any booktalks given to me when I was a kid; the concept was new to me when I started at NYPL. Hope you'll try it!

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