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Friday, August 6, 2021

'In a book I can be anyone'

“I read, because one life is not enough, and in the page of a book I can be anyone.”
 – Richard Peck

And, as prolific as he was as a reader, Peck was equally prolific as a writer of modern Young Adult literature.   Born in 1934 (he died in 2018) he won dozens of awards including 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.  

Peck’s career as a writer started when he was sidetracked from his job 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 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 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 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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