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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A Place 'To Be Anyone'

“I read, because one life is not enough, and in the page of a book I can be anyone.”
 – Richard Peck
Peck, who was born in 1934 and died last year, was equally prolific as a writer - primarily of Young Adult literature.   He won dozens of awards for his YA writing, picking up 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 the genre’. 
Along the way, of course, he also developed a devoted “adult” population of readers, myself included.  Thus, when my book And The Wind Whispered came out and the ALA dubbed it “Young Adult” as well as “Mystery” and “Adventure,” I was flattered to be included in Peck’s world.
Peck’s writing career started when he was sidetracked from what he thought was going to be a career as a high school teacher.  Happily teaching high school in the 1950s, 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 school students he didn’t want to teach.  "Ironically,” he said,  “it was my students who taught me to be a writer, though I was hired to teach them."
While his highest accolades come for his Newbery winner, I highly recommend his book Amanda/Miranda, a twist on both the old Prince and the Pauper story and the tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic. 
                         Peck believed each book should be a question, not an answer, and that before anything else can happen a book needs to be entertaining. “A young adult novel ends not with happily ever after but at a new beginning,” he said, “with the sense of a lot of life yet to be lived.”
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