My favorite novelist is famous for outstanding young adult literature. Writing since 1971, Richard Peck received the Newbery Medal in 2001 for his novel A Year Down Yonder. This prestigious award is given annually and honors American literature for children. Previously a junior high and high school teacher, his classroom experience gave him insights into entertaining a reader with words, while capturing a reader’s attention and imagination. His novels often contain a great deal of Americana, humor and history.
Mr. Peck was born in Decatur, Illinois in 1934. After high school he studied at DePauw University and the University of Exeter. He received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1956 and then served two years in the U.S. Army in Germany as a chaplain’s assistant. After his military service he attended Southern Illinois University and earned a Master’s Degree in 1959. His first novel, Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt, was written in 1971 after his decision to leave teaching.
His books, A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder follow the capers of Joey and Mary Alice Dowdel. Rollicking adventures with Grandma Dowdel abound. But my favorite novel is Fair Weather with its setting during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Fair Weather offers a glimpse into the world the way it was, way back in 1893. Plus details of the first Ferris wheel, Buffalo Bill and Little Egypt are not only informative but entertaining. A laugh-out-loud book at times, I fell in love with these sentences on the first page. “We were just plain country people. I suppose we were poor, but we didn’t know it. Poor but proud. There wasn’t a blister of paint on the house, but there were no hogs under the porch.”
Mr. Peck was the keynote speaker at a children’s writing conference I attended. Imagine how I felt when I picked him up at the airport for this speaking engagement. Pure bliss, euphoria and hilarity rode with me as we chatted and laughed during the hour long drive.
Other popular books by Richard Peck are The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts, Here Lies the Librarian, and On the Wings of Heroes.
Richard Peck has also written nonfiction and contributed to anthologies. During his writing career he has written more than 30 novels. I want to read every one of them!