“I read, because one life is not enough, and in the page of a book I can be anyone.”
– Richard Peck
Prolific Young Adult writer Peck, who was born in 1934 and died this past Spring, had the distinction of winning both a Newbery Medal (for his novel A Year Down Yonder) and the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association for his cumulative contributions to YA literature.
Peck’s career as a writer actually started when he was sidetracked from what he thought was going to be a career as a high school teacher. He was happily teaching high school in the 1950s when he was transferred to a junior high to teach English. Upset about the move, he decided to take time away from teaching to try writing, focusing on his observations about the junior high-aged students he didn’t want to teach. "Ironically,” he said, “it was my students who taught me to be a writer, even though I was hired to teach them."
While his highest accolades are for his Newbery winner, I would recommend any of his 40-plus titles, particularly Amanda/Miranda. It’s a twist on Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper story and the sinking of the Titanic – a gripping and heartfelt story. Peck believed each book should be a question, not an answer and that before anything else it needed to be entertaining.
“A young adult novel ends not with happily ever after, but at a new beginning, with the sense of a lot of life yet to be lived.”
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