Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Riot by Walter Dean Myers (Audiobook)

Title: Riot
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Publisher: Listening Library
Date: September 2009
ISBN-13: 978-0307583383

Plot Summary: Claire is the fifteen-year-old daughter of an Irish mother and a black father living in New York City in 1863.  The Civil War is raging, and the battle at Gettysburg just shifted the upper hand in the war back to the Union.  In July, a draft is instituted, which enrages the working class Irish in New York.  Rich citizens are able to buy their way out of the draft, and many of the Irish immigrants (who left Ireland during the Potato Famine) are living in poverty, and don’t want to fight to free slaves that will become competition for available jobs.  Furious groups of rioters roam the city, looting stores and attacking blacks.

As a child from both worlds, the riots cause Claire to think about her identity for the first time.  They also provide a chance for her to prove to her parents that she is no longer a child, and that she can make decisions for herself rather than relying on them for protection.

Critical Evaluation: Myer’s screenplay-like style translates well into the audiobook format.  There is a narrator who describes the action and directs the camera, while a full cast delivers the dialogue – which makes the presentation feel like an old radio drama.  It is easy to visualize the scene when it seems like real conversations are taking place between the characters (as opposed to having one reader doing all the voices).  The audio format also allows for sound effects and background music, an effective way to bring the story to life and draw in the audience.  For instance, the first scene depicts New York City in modern time, the 1950s, the turn of the century, and the 1860s – in each of these time periods, the street scene is described as we travel back in New York’s history.  Each of these vignettes has different background music, from hip hop to jazz, ragtime to fiddle music, which is used to draw us into the time periods that we associate the music with.  Sound effects in later scene, whether the rumbling of an angry mob in the background, or the gunshots of soldiers, brings to life the New York City Draft Riots of 1863 as depicted by Myers.  The audiobook also includes an interview with the author.

Reader’s Annotation: During the Civil War, a draft in New York City incites groups of rioters, primarily recent Irish immigrants, to loot stores and attack  black citizens.  Claire, the daughter of an Irish mother and a black father, finds herself caught between the two sides and struggles to define her identity.

Author Information: Walter Dean Myers is an author of young adult literature, including the New York Times bestseller Monster, which tells the story of a young man on trial for murder.  Myers particularly depicts stories of young African Americans living in Harlem, and addresses topics like gang activity and drug use.  He has won the Coretta Scott King Award for African American authors five times.

Myers was born in West Virginia and was given away to a couple that raised him in Harlem.  He dropped out of high school when he was seventeen to join the army, but remembered the encouragement of one of his teachers to keep writing.  Working at a construction job years later, he began writing about what he describes as “the most difficult period of my own life, the teen years” (Source), beginning his successful career as a novelist.

Myers says of his work, “I hope that the next book, story or poem that I write will be worthy of the time the reader spends with it. If it is then my life is successful. If it’s not, then I’ll try again.” (Source)

Genre: Historical Fiction

Curriculum Ties: American History, Sociology

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Discuss the events and factors that led up to the riots.
2) Does Claire identify more with her Irish mother or black father?

Interest Age: 12 and older

Challenge Issues: violence, some death, racism

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the audiobook and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews from School Library Journal available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I was looking for a good historical fiction title and chose this one for several reasons – I was familiar with Walter Dean Myers and knew that he was a well-known YA author, I was trying to include more audiobooks and was interested in this one because it was performed by a full-cast, and I thought the issues that were being raised about race and identity gave it more depth.


Walter Dean Myers’s website.

Video of Anthony Morgan Choir of New York recording music for the Riot audiobook:


February 23, 2010 - Posted by | Audiobooks |

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