Walter Dean Myers creates a unique look into the life of a young man in trouble in Monster. Steve Harmon is a sixteen-year-old boy on trial with his neighborhood acquaintance, twenty-three-year-old James King, for felony murder. Myers tells the story of Steve’s experience through Steve’s own writing. The novel is actually a screenplay that Steve is writing to work out some of the stress that the trial is putting on him and to share the story of this life-changing experience with other people. The screenplay includes not only court room scenes, but also flashbacks to the incident and to other parts of Steve’s life before prison.
Steve is not directly responsible for the death of the murder victim, Mr. Nesbitt, but he is indirectly involved in the premeditated robbery of Mr. Nesbitt’s drugstore. King convinces Steve to act as a look-out for him and his other partners, Osvaldo Cruz and Richard “Bobo” Evans. Steve is to case the drug store and make sure that it is empty before King and Bobo go in to rob the store. If it is not empty, Steve is to give a sign to them to tell them to wait. Osvaldo waits outside in case anyone tries to follow King and Bobo out of the drugstore after the robbery. His job is to roll a trash can in front of any person who follows them to slow them down. Their “get-over” goes bad, though, when Mr. Nesbitt produces his gun from behind the counter to defend his store. There is a struggle and Mr. Nesbitt ends up being shot and killed.
There is much drama in the courtroom as Mrs. O’Brien, Steve’s lawyer, fights to show the jury that Steve is innocent. Bobo Evans and Osvaldo Cruz cut deals with the police officers and are called to the stand to testify against King and Steve, Steve’s high school film club advisor testifies on behalf of his character, and Steve himself takes the stand to testify that he is innocent of the crime of felony murder. There are also emotional moments between Steve and his parents and readers see Steve begin to think about things like his ideas of morality, his own identity, and independence. The novel also includes several moments within the jail cell and describes the stark details of prison life and the hopelessness of the prisoners.
Myers gives young adult readers a novel complete with interesting style and technique, and one heavy with the most serious issues that face today’s adolescents. This is a serious read that should not be taken lightly, but it will definitely give young adults much to relate to, to think about, and to talk about.
You be the STAR
Students can perform various scenes from the novel and videotape them.
Split the students into groups each group will have a director, a cameraperson, and two or three stars. The director's job is to obtain all the props needed for the scene and to lead the group. The cameraperson must make sure that the "vision" of the director is met. Actors should act out the scene according to the novel.
What happens next?
A writing assignment
Pretend you are a reporter following his case. Interview Steven after the result of the trial. Be sure to include details from the case and make the questions relevant.
ORWrite a new screenplay explaining what has happened to Steven and the other characters in the novel 5- 10 years down the road. Use details from the novel to help you foreshadow.
The most important aspect of selling a movie is the movie poster. Help Steven sell his movie and make a poster. Be sure to summarize the plot in as few words as possible and pictures as well.
Music is the Soul of a Movie
Sometimes the soundtrack of a movie helps to emphasize the emotions during the movie. Design a soundtrack that adds dimension to the movie. Please do not make it all one genre (i.e. rap, rock, country-although I don’t know how you could find a lot of relevance in a country song) try to find instrumental songs as well as popular songs. Pick about 3 to 6 songs make the soundtrack no longer then 30 minutes.
Using all three of the addresses listed below, answer the following questions.
1. What year was Walter Dean Myers Born, and
2. How old was W.D. Myers when he won his first award for writing?
3. What disability did Myers suffer from when he was a child?
4. What is Myers main goal when writing?
5. List 7 of Myers’ books, and why they may be interesting to you.
Adventure in Granada. New York: Puffin, 1985
Ambush in the Amazon. New York: Puffin, 1986.
Amistad. New York: Dutton, 1998.
Angel to Angel. New York: HarperCollins, 1998.
At Her Majesty’s Request. Scholastic, 1999.
Brown Angels. New York: HarperCollins, 1993.
Crystal. New York: Viking, 1987.
Dangerous Games. New York: Bantam, 1993.
Darnell Rock Reporting. New York: Delacorte, 1994.
The Dragon Takes a Wife. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
Duel in the Desert. New York: Puffin, 1986.
Fallen Angels. Scholastic, 1988.
Fast Sam, Cool Clyde, and Stuff. New York: Puffin, 1988.
The Glory Field. New York: Scholastic, 1995.
Glorious Angels. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
Harlem. New York: Scholastic, 1997.
The Hidden Shrine. New York: Puffin, 1985.
How Mr. Monkey Saw the Whole World. New York: Doubleday, 1996.
The Journal of Joshua Loper. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
Malcolm X. New York: Scholastic, 1993.
Me, Mop and the Moondance Kid. New York: Delacorte, 1988.
Mop, Moondance, and the Nagaskaki Knights. New York: Delacorte, 1992.
The Mouse Rap. New York: Harper, 1990.
Now is Your Time. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.
One More River to Cross. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1995.
The Outside Shot. New York: Delacorte, 1984.
A Place Called Heartbreak. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993.
The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Scorpions. New York: Harper, 1988.
Shadow of the Red Moon. New York: Scholastic, 1995
Slam. New York: Scholastic, 1996.
Smiffy Blue. New York: Scholastic, 1996.
Somewhere in the Darkness. New York: Scholastic, 1992.
The Story of Three Kingdoms. New York: HarperCollins, 1995.
Sweet Illusions. New York: Teachers and Writers collaborative, 1987.
Toussaint L’Ouverture. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Won’t Know till I Get There. New York: Puffin, 1982.
The Young Landlords. New York: Puffin, 1989.
Young Martin’s Promise. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993.
Other Related Titles:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Warner Books
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines; Vintage Books
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; Farrar Straus & Giroux (juv)
When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis; Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
Getting Near to Baby (Newbery Honor Book, 2000) by Audrey Couloumbis; Putnam Pub Group Juv
Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal Book) byChristopher Paul Curtis; Bantam Books