Walter Dean Myers, , read by Peter Francis James. . Harper Children's Audio, $24 (, unabridged, three cassettes, five hours, $24 ISBN p) ISBN 978-0-06-008968-9

James's strong portrayals of the African-American men and boys in a Harlem barbershop aren't enough to help this audiobook overcome the preachy tone of Myers's novel. Duke, owner of a barbershop on 145th Street (familiar territory in Myers's works), has dedicated his golden years to starting a community mentoring program for boys headed for trouble. As a result, 16-year-old Jimmy and 17-year-old Kevin work after school in the shop instead of being sent to juvenile detention center for infractions they have committed. While at the barbershop, they hear countless life lessons from Duke and his cronies, who use various members of the community as examples of paths not to take. James gives Duke a slow, smooth and sonorous delivery and Jimmy a believable rhythm for his contemporary vernacular. Die-hard Myers fans will probably stay with this recording, but a good number of young listeners will be turned off by its didactic nature. Simultaneous release with the Harper/ Amistad hardcover. Ages 10-up. (May)