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Annotation: After reluctantly taking on the leadership of the Harlem gang, the Scorpions, Jamal finds that his enemies treat him with respect when he acquires a gun until a tragedy occurs.
Catalog Number: #600052601
Format: Ebook
No other formats available
Special Formats: Ebook (Subscription, 26 uses) Ebook Downloadable Downloadable
Publisher: HarperCollins
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition Date: 2013
Pages: 240
Territory: North America
Availability: Special Order Only - Contact Customer Service at +1 800 637-6581 or +1 217 243-5451
ISBN: 0-06-197506-0
ISBN 13: 978-0-06-197506-6
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
Publishers Weekly
PW called this Newbery Honor novel about a 12-year-old caught up in the violence of Harlem gangs """"realistic, spare and almost unbearably sad."""" Ages 12-up. (Jan.)
School Library Journal
Jamal, who is pressured to become leader of the Scorpions gang, worries about school, family, and the rough kids on the street. When a fellow gang member gives him a gun, Jamal suddenly gains a new level of respect from his enemies. A realistic look at a boy who wants to do the right thing but gets caught up in the culture of violence. A Newbery Honor selection. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Word Count: 44,653
Reading Level: 3.7
Interest Level: 7-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.7 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 386 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:7.1 / points:12.0 / quiz:Q10088
Lexile: 610L
Guided Reading Level: Z
Fountas & Pinnell: Z

Chapter One

"You see anything?"


"Why don't you go down to the subway?"

"Suppose she come on the bus or take a taxi?"

"She ain't got the money for no taxi."

"She could still take the bus."

Jamal sat in the window and looked down the street. It had rained earlier, and he wondered if his mother had taken an umbrella.

"I'm hungry," Sassy said.

"You ate." Jamal answered his little sister without looking at her.

"You want to watch television?"

"You the one who always want to watch it," Jamal said.

"I just asked," Sassy said. "You worried?"

"Ain't nothing to be worried about."

"Then how come you sitting at the window ever since six o'clock?"

"How come you ask so many questions?"

"I'm gonna tell Mama you being nasty to me."

"Tell her."

"I'm gonna tell her you said that, too."

"I don't care."

"I'm putting the television on," Sassy said.

Jamal glanced at the clock on the wall. It was almost ten thirty. He started to ask Sassy if she had finished her homework, then changed his mind. He looked down into the street again.

At the corner a thin man leaned against the light pole. Jamal watched as the man leaned slowly toward the ground, then straightened up. Jamal knew that the addict would repeat his nodding until he fell asleep. He looked away.

Sassy was watching some stupid program. The television was okay, even if the programs were Stupid. When he got a job, he was going to buy one of those recording machines. Then he and Mama could go and get movies and watch them instead of all the stupid stuff they had on regular television.

He thought about how he would tell Mama he had the money for the recording machine. Maybe he wouldn't even tell her--just go out and buy it for her and bring it on in the house.

Sassy fell asleep on the couch at eleven o'clock.

He moved away from the window and sat next to his sister. Mama would say that he should wake her and tell her to go to bed, but he didn't want to sit by himself.

Somebody had a radio on. Probably Snookie. Snookie always played his radio too loud. Jamal had told Snookie about his loud playing, and he asked Jamal what he needed a radio for if he had to play it so soft he couldn't hear it. Jamal figured a dead person could hear it the way Snookie played it.

Jamal was a little hungry. He had made some potatoes and chicken, but there wasn't too much of it. Sassy had eaten one piece of chicken, and he had had one piece. Sassy said she wanted two pieces because she wasn't going to eat any potatoes, but she knew better. They had to save something for Mama. If he had got the rice from Mr. Evans, he could have made the chicken and rice Mama liked a lot.

It was almost twelve o'clock when Mama got home. Jamal was in the bathroom when he heard the key in the door. He came out as quickly as he could. He saw that Mama had awakened Sassy and taken her into the bedroom.

"How come you didn't tell Sassy to go to bed?" Mama said.

"She wanted to watch television."

"She eat?"


"What she eat?"

"That chicken from Sunday and some potatoes. We saved you some."

Mama went into the kitchen and looked at the food on the stove. She saw that Jamal had cut the potatoes into small squares and put some snap beans in with them.

"Where you get them snap beans?"

"They was in that plastic bowl in the back of the refrigerator," Jamal said.

"You get the mail?"

"Forgot," Jamal said. "You want me to go downstairs and get it?"

"No, I'm too tired to even read it," Mama said. She sat on the wooden chair, crossed one heavy leg over the other, and started to take her shoes off. Jamal liked the way Mama had looked before she had let her hair grow out. To him she had looked like the African women he had seen in magazine, strong and pretty and the same deep brown as he was. Her hair had grown out with patches of gray in the back and one just over her forehead. She looked older than before, before all the trouble with Randy.

"You stayed until five o'clock?"

"I stayed until visiting hours was up," Mama said. "Turn your head."

Jamal turned his head while Mama took her stockings off.

"How Randy doing?"

"I don't know," Mama said. "He still talking like he ain't got no sense, as far as I'm concerned."

"What he say?"

"He talking about how he gonna appeal his case and stuff, and asking me if I got five hundred dollars. No five hundred dollars grew on trees when he was out here in the street, and I sure don't see none growing on trees with him up there."

"He think he can get out?"

"I guess he ain't got nothing else to do up there except thinking about getting out," Mama said. She reached down and rubbed her ankle. "I sure hope this swelling in my feet go down by tomorrow," Mama said.

"You got some work?" Jamal said.

"Mr. Stanton call me just before I left to see Randy. He said he can give me two days this week. He said things may pick up for Christmas, too. Maybe I can get the money for Randy. I don't know."

"That other lawyer said he ain't getting out," Jamal said. "He said he can't get out until he do seven years.

Mama didn't say anything. She took a deep breath that seemed to swell her up, and then let it out slowly.

Jamal was sorry for what he had said, but it was true. Randy got fifteen to twenty years, and the lawyer said that he would have to stay in for at least seven years before he could come out on parole. When he got out, Jamal would be nineteen years old and Sassy would be fifteen. That was a long time.

He imagined Randy getting out, and meeting him. They might even be the same size, Jamal thought. He might even have a mustache by then.

Scorpions. Copyright © by Walter Myers. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Scorpions by Walter Dean Myers
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

The Scorpions are a gun-toting Harlem gang, and Jamal Hicks is about to become tragically involved with them in this authentic tale of the sacrifice of innocence and the struggle to steer clear of violence.

This Newbery Honor Book will challenge young men to consider their own decisions as they come of age in a complex and often frustrating society.

Pushed by a bully to fight and nagged by his principal, Jamal is having a difficult time staying in school. His home life is not much better, with his mother working her fingers to the bone to try to earn the money for an appeal for Jamal's jailed older brother, Randy.

Jamal wants to do the right thing and help earn the money to free his brother by working, but he's afraid to go against the Scorpions. Jamal eventually pulls free of the gang's bad influence, but only through the narrowest of escapes.

Walter Dean Myers, five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, sensitively explores the loyalty and love between friends faced with hard choices. Scorpions is 25 years old, but the issues of poverty and violence make it a timeless powerful read—sadly as relevant as ever.

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