The Best Man
by Richard Peck
Related Activities & Resources:
Richard Peck-Guest Blogger for Teaching Books.net: https://forum.teachingbooks.net/2011/10/guest-blogger-richard-peck/
Q & A with Richard Peck:
Richard Peck on writing through the revolutions: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/44744-richard-peck-on-writing-through-the-revolutions.html
Mackin interview with Richard Peck:
5 excellent webcasts of Richard Peck from The National Book Festival: http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/author/richard_peck
An amazing afternoon with Richard Peck has a series of video clips of him answering questions:
SCBWI Master Class with Richard Peck (4:22):
Richard Peck talks with Roger Sutton of Horn Book (38:37): http://www.hbook.com/2016/07/talks-with-roger/richard-peck-talks-with-roger-additional-videos/
Richard Peck on a mission to debunk stereotypes: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/70281-bea-2016-richard-peck-on-a-mission-to-debunk-stereotypes.html
Activities & Resources:
Stroke warning signs and symptoms:
British titles and orders of precedence:
Dealing with bullies (scroll to the bottom for the section just for kids):
Adopting a U.S. military dog (scroll down to see a Belgian Malinois like Mr. McLeod’s dog):
The decathlon consists of the 100-meter sprint, 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter event, 1500-meter event, long jump, high jump, shot put, discus throw, javelin throw and pole vault. Put on a decathlon for your class. You may simplify each event.
Below are pictures of the vintage cars mentioned in Best Man.
Video of Hudson Hornet convertible (1:31):
Images of Hudson Hornet convertible:
Images of vintage Pontiac Firebird:
Video of classic 56 Chevy Bel-air(5:06):
Check out these vintage cars from the 1960’s. You can click on the right side to change the company.
Cars from the 1960’s:
Pictures of classic cars:
Make a model of your house, neighborhood or city and include things that are important to you such as your pet, toy, car, etc.
Choose a car outline from the website below and fill in the outline to design a car of your own.
Pretend you are an architect.. Design a cool building or ride. Describe the features included.
Archer says six-year-olds have no rights. What does he mean? Is this true? Explain.
Archer’s mom says she does her best with his grandmother but it’s never good enough. Never. Have you ever felt like this? What should you do if this happens to you?
Archer’s mom tells Archer to be a brave boy when the package with his ring-bearing outfit arrives/ Why is she telling him to be brave? What does she know that he doesn’t?
Archer says the first thing you learn in school is that there’s no place to hide. What does he mean and is this true?
When Lynnette finds Archer under the porch she starts making fun of his outfil. What does this tell you about Lynnette? Is she trying to be mean or just stating the obvious?
Archer doesn’t wear anything under his shorts because they are too small. What would you have done in his place?
Lynette tells Archer if they don’t go to the wedding everyone will panic and there will be an Amber Alert. Do you think this would happen? Explain.
When Archer says they’re going to kill him what is he talking about? Lynette says they’d have to get past her first. What does this say about Lynette?
Archer thinks there aren’t any small weddings. There’s always fuss. What does he mean and do you agree?
Lynette lies and takes the blame for Archer being muddy. Is it her fault? Explain. Why would she take the blame for someone she doesn’t even know?
Grandma makes Archer go down the aisle. Would you make someone go down the aisle who was obviously muddy? Explain.
Why do you think Archer crawled backwards down the porch steps knowing his behind wasn’t covered up? What would you have done? Do you think Archer was more afraid of the embarrassment or of his grandma? Explain.
Grandpa Magill wore a coat, tie and pants with creases every day of the year. What does this say about him? Would he approve of the way we dress today? Would he adapt?
Grandpa Magill keeps Archer busy on their walk to school. Archer is so busy he forgets to be afraid. Do you think Grandpa Magill planned it that way? Explain.
Archer believes kids and grownups are coming from everywhere but on the first day of school you don’t think about anybody but you. Is this true? What kinds of things do you think about the first day?
On the school steps Archer looks back for one last look at the world. What does this tell you about how he feels about school?
Archer’s dad follows Archer as he walks to school with his grandpa. Why would he feel the need to do this?
Sixth graders are throwing food on the first day of school. Do you think this is a good school? Do elementary schools usually have a security guard?
Archer says in first grade your best friend better never be a girl unless you are one. Do you agree? Explain.
Why does Archer tell Lynette to never save him or text him?
Archer is confronted in the bathroom by Jackson who has a knife and wants his shirt. If you were Archer what would you do?
On the way to and from school Archer’s grandpa has him picking up litter. What does this say about grandpa’s character?
Archer is surprised his mom knows what happened in the restroom at school. Does your mom or dad always know what happens at school? How do they find out stuff?
Lynette chose to save Archer by getting the security guard even though Archer told her not to ever save him. Did Lynette do the right thing? In what situations is it okay to break your word?
Archer doesn’t want his mom to call the principal. When parents call the school about their children being bullied does it make the situation better or worse? Explain.
Uncle Paul tells Archer when he is old enough he can drive but not his car. What does this tell you about Uncle Paul and his possessions? Is this a good thing? Explain. Would you let a sixteen-year-old drive your car if you were related? Explain.
Uncle Paul never asks Archer if he likes school. Archer likes that about him. Why?
Jackson took at least two knives to school. What would your parents do if you did that?
Why doesn’t Jackson want to say thank you to Uncle Paul for giving him the cubs shirt?
Uncle Paul tells Jackson’s dad it wasn’t the shirt Jackson wanted and to try to figure out what he does want/ What do you think he wants?
Uncle Paul tells Archer that, because he’s been in Jackson’s house,Jackson will leave him alone. Is this true? Explain.
Dad, Uncle Paul and Grandpa Magill are the three men Archer wants to be like. Why? Who do you want to be like and why?
Natalie answers her cell phone during testing. The school is supposed to be phone free. Nothing happens. She gets to keep her phone. What does this say about Natalie? Her teacher? Would you bend the rules if you were afraid of a student’s mother? Explain.
Archer’s fourth grade teacher resigned because she said standardized testing kept the kids from learning anything to be tested on. What does she mean?
Cleo the cat who doesn’t like kids wakes up Archer. Do you believe animals like cats and dogs go for help when something is wrong? Do you believe they can sense a problem? Explain.
When Grandpa Magill goes to the hospital Archer stays behind because his mom needs him with her. Archer hadn’t been needed before. It made him taller. Explain. Do we need to be needed? Why?
Archer’s teacher’s lessons are all centered around her having a baby. Do you think it is appropriate for fifth graders to see sonograms, etc.? Explain.
Lynette hangs out with Natalie because she doesn’t want her as an enemy. Would you spend time with someone you don’t like for this reason? Explain.
Archer doesn’t want to eat lunch with Lynette because of students making comments. Would this stop you from eating with your best friend? Explain.
Lynette and Natalie are fighting but no teachers come to stop it? Why not? Would you if you were an onlooker? Who would you be rooting for- Natalie or Lynette? Why?
Archer takes Lynette by the hand and gets her away from Natalie. He didn’t care what anybody said about his hand holding. What makes him change his mind about students making comments about Lynette and him? What would you have done?
Why do you think Natalie accused Lynette of taking her phone?
Archer reads the note Lynette sent saying her parents are getting a divorce. What would you say in response to your friend if you received a note like that?
Archer thinks that kids know most things before their grown-ups know they know and that kids are older than they look or act. Do you agree? Explain.
Lynette’s mom is going to be their new teacher for the rest of the year. Would you want to have one of your parents as your teacher? Explain.
Mrs. Stanley calls the class ‘boys and girls’ instead of ‘people’. Why is this a mistake? What do you want a teacher to call your class by? Why?
What advice would you give to a new teacher?
Russell Beale was asleep under his desk during lockdown and Esther Wilhelm couldn’t fit under her desk. Can you fit under your desk? Is this the best place to be for a lockdown? Is it okay to sleep during a lockdown? Explain.
When the principal says the lockdown is over and to resume the scheduled school day Archer thinks to himself ‘Like that is going to happen’. Why does he think this?
The school secretary thinks Mr. McLeod is armed and dangerous because he’s wearing camouflage fatigues. What does this tell you about the secretary? If you saw a man in camouflage fatigues enter your classroom what would you think and feel?
News reporters pushed their way into Archer’s school and classroom. Would this happen in real life today? How easy is it to get into your school?
Do you think a physically fit military man would be an easy or hard teacher? Explain.
Mr. McLeod is smuggled into the school in the floor of a classic Pontiac Firebird. Archer’s dad thought the car was too noticeable to be noticed. What does this mean?
After learning of the student teacher, older students who could walk were now driven to school by mothers. Why?
Mr. McLeod received lots of marriage proposals. Is it wise to marry someone based on looks alone? Explain.
Archer formally introduces Uncle Paul to Mr. McLeod even though everyone knew who Mr. McLeod was. How do you formally introduce someone and when is it important to do so?
When Uncle Paul brings Mr. McLeod and Argus home for dinner ,it looks like dad and grandpa hadn’t been to the doctor. Do you believe this was just an excuse for Paul to meet Mr. McLeod? Explain.
Archer gives Uncle Paul a tour of grandpa’s workshop. In the basement was a lit up small replica of every building his grandpa had designed as an architect along with the ferris wheel, playground, Wrigley Field, etc. Why does Archer do this?
Since Mr. McLeod wasn’t a real teacher yet, he kept coming up with new ideas such as having the students workout by their desks. Does this mean real teachers can’t be creative? Explain.
Mr. McLeod found maps and dusted them off and hung them. What is the advantage of having a real map in the room vs a computer?
Natalie warned Mr. McLeod that being exposed to so much unfamiliar material could damage their self-esteems. How so?
Mr. McLeod was very big on history and was “amazed we didn’t know where we were”.
Why is it important to know your directions and about your city?
Grandma MaGill ironed her hair when she was younger. What other things were different back then? How is that different from using a straight iron or curling iron today?
Mr. McLeod tells Grandpa McGill he was a foster kid who had many homes and none. What does this mean?
“Raymond and Archer find Russell tied up in the restroom with the word GAY written on his forehead. Raymond and Archer weren’t going to say anything about how they found Russell.” Why not? Is this a good decision? Why would they choose not to say anything? Would you?
Russell doesn’t want to name the boys who tied him up and labeled him. Why? Would you? Explain.
Why do you think Russell agrees to go to the sixth grade classroom with Mr. McLeod?
Mr. McLeod say to “stay away from people who don’t know who they are but want you to be just like them. People who’ll want to label you. People who’ll try to write their fears on your face.” What does he mean?
Do we label people? How?
Why does Mr. McLeod talk about writing your fears on someone’s face?
A student tells Mr. McLeod who brought the clothesline and marker. Would you have told? Explain.
Why did Mr. McLeod tell the sixth grade class he was gay? Did this serve a purpose and if so what was it? What would you have done?
The Trib reported that Mr. McLeod was gay. Is this appropriate news for a reporter to cover? Explain.
Archer’s mom tells him, “she found him under the cabbage leaves in the park.” Does she really think Archer would believe this story or not know where babies come from? Why does she say it?
When Archer’s grandpa dies, his mom doesn’t go with Holly and Archer to the hospice. She says “she is only half McGill”. Why does this matter?
Grandma McGill tell Archer “to open the window to let the songbird in and Grandpa McGill out”. Why would she say this? Do you believe souls leave through windows? Explain.
Archer wants to scatter part of Grandpa McGill’s ashes at Wrigley Field because grandpa loved it there. If you were going to be scattered where would you choose and why?
Uncle Paul says “thirty four is too old to wear shorts in public”. Do you agree? What do you think is the correct age to stop wearing shorts in public? Explain.
Archer didn’t know Uncle Paul was gay until Uncle Paul told him. Everyone just assumed he knew. Do people automatically know things? Should family explain things they want their kids to know or assume they’ll just know?
Archer learns his grade is being moved to the middle school. He feels cheated. Why? Would you? Explain.
Archer’s mom says “change doesn’t care whether you’re ready or not. Change happens anyway”. If this is true, what should we do? Tell of a time when you weren’t ready for something.
Lynette comes back from fat camp with a new look and changes her name. Would you change your name going into middle school? If you could and if you did, what would your new name be and why?
“The eighth graders carried all their books around in backpacks instead of using lockers because they thought it made them look cool. The other grades followed suit.” Would you carry heavy books all day to look cool or be yourself? Explain.
Archer tells of three middle school myths. What middle school myths have you heard of? How do these get started and why?
Archer believes “Ms. Stanley pretends not to know things to get the students to learn”. Do you believe teachers really do this and does it work? Explain.
Archer gets a new student in his class who is foreign and differently abled. What would you do to make a foreign student feel comfortable in your class?
Archer’s dad asks “How am I going to mean as much to you as my dad meant to me?” Archer answers “Dad, you do. You’re there.” Is this a good answer? What would our parents have to do in order for them to mean a lot to us? Give examples.
Archer answers different questions by saying “You work with what you’ve got, and it takes the time it takes, and it works or it doesn’t work.” What does this mean?
Hilary Evelyn is a boy. He says “they are boys’ names in England. Why they aren’t boys’ names in this country I can’t think, except you people get everything wrong.” What does this statement tell you about Hilary? How does it make you feel? What would you do after hearing Hilary express this view about Americans?
“In the lunchroom students aren’t supposed to eat sugar because it endangers your health but you could be beaten to death from coming to lunch.” Why does Hilary see this as ironic?
How would you feel if you had a bodyguard of your own? Would you use him to intimidate or….?
Hilary has his bodyguard throw Perry out of the lunchroom and tells him to stay out for the rest of the year. Do you think Perry will stay out? If Hilary had said this to you, would you stay out? Explain.
Do you think Hilary is a bully or just a snob? Explain.
Explain the following statement Archer makes about Hilary. “We thought he was weird. He thought we were weird. It was great. It was what multiculturalism ought to be.”
When Archer’s mom asks, “Why can’t the school protect its own students with its own resources? “ Archer answers. “That’s easy. Bullies have parents too, and schools don’t have diplomatic immunity?” What does Archer mean?
The sixth graders are not allowed to go to the school’s Halloween event. Is this fair? What would you do if this happened to your grade?
Hilary bosses everyone around even telling the adults what to do. How come no one tells him to stop? Especially the adults?
Archer’s student teacher marries his uncle. Would you want one of your teachers to marry your parent, sibling or other relative? Explain your answer.
Book Talk Teasers:
Perform the readers theater
Play the wedding march. Ask what memories the music elicits. Are the memories all happy. What if the music brings up fear, terror, embarrassment. What if you were in a wedding that was going to be so embarrassing for you that you tried to hide under the porch no matter the consequences to keep from being in it? This is what Archer does in Best Man. To find out why and what other terror awaits Archer read Best Man.
Mendelssohn’s Wedding March (1:51): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tDYMayp6Dk
Realistic fiction, confidence and inspirational, male role models:
Alexander, Kwame. The crossover. Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health. (NoveList)
Graff, Lisa. Absolutely almost. Ten-year-old Albie has never been the smartest, tallest, best at gym, greatest artist, or most musical in his class, as his parents keep reminding him, but new nanny Calista helps him uncover his strengths and take pride in himself. (NoveList)
Realistic fiction, bullies, character driven:
Gephart, Donna. Death by toilet paper. Contest-crazed twelve-year-old Ben uses his wits and way with words in hopes of winning a prize that will keep his family from being evicted until his mother can pass her final CPA examination. (NoveList)
Gino, Alex. George. Knowing herself to be a girl despite her outwardly male appearance, George is denied a female role in the class play before teaming up with a friend to reveal her true self. (NoveList)
Harkrader, Lisa. The adventures of Beanboy. When aspiring comic-book artist Tucker MacBean enters a contest to create a new sidekick for his favorite superhero, Beanboy , he’s got a lot riding on whether or not he wins. Tucker hopes that stardom might make him more popular, and he wants to give the prize, a college scholarship, to his hardworking but exhausted single mom. — Description by Ellen Foreman. (NoveList)
Heldring, Thatcher. The league. Fourteen-year-old Wyatt, hoping to impress a girl and ward off a bully, decides to join his older brother’s summer football league, “The League of Pain,” against the advice of his parents, who think golf is the right sport for him. (NoveList)
Howe, James. Totally Joe. As a school assignment, a thirteen-year-old boy writes an alphabiography–life from A to Z–and explores issues of friendship, family, school, and the challenges of being a gay teenager. (NoveList)
Plourde, Lynn. Maxi’s secrets. Fifth-grader Timminy, who’s small for his age and new in town, isn’t eager to start middle school–but he gets a great consolation prize in Maxi, a big, deaf, lovable dog. (NoveList)
Spinelli, Jerry. Crash. Seventh-grader John “Crash” Coogan has always been comfortable with his tough, aggressive behavior, until his relationship with an unusual.Quaker boy and his grandfather’s stroke make him consider the meaning of friendship and the importance of family. (NoveList)
Historical Fiction, Humorous, Brothers and Sisters:
Dowell, Frances O’Roark. Trouble the water. In the segregated south of Kentucky in 1953, twelve-year-olds Callie, who is black, and Wendell, who is white, are brought together by an old dog that is clearly seeking something or someone, but they not only face prejudice, they find trouble at a haunted cabin in the woods. (NoveList)
Dorris, Michael. The window. When eleven-year-old Rayona’s Native American mother enters a treatment facility, her estranged father, an African-American man, finally introduces her to his side of the family, who are not at all what she expected. (NoveList)
Humorous, Brothers and Sisters:
Baldacci, David. The keeper. Vega Jane and her friend Delph have taken the map that Quentin Harris left them and set out from the town of Wormwood, determined to brave the Quag and find freedom on the other side–but the Quag was designed to keep the town people in, and it is filled with bloodthirsty creatures and sinister magic, and it is not going to let them escape unscathed. (NoveList)
Snicket, Lemony. File under: 13 suspicious incidents. Strange things are happening all over the town of Stain’d-By-The-Sea. Called upon to investigate thirteen suspicious incidents, young Lemony Snicket collects clues, questions witnesses, and cracks every case. (NoveList)
Humorous, Brothers and Sisters, and Family Relationships:
Blume, Judy. Blubber. Jill goes along with the rest of the fifth-grade class in tormenting a classmate and then finds out what it is like when she, too, becomes a target. (NoveList)
Blume, Judy. Tales of a fourth grade nothing. A fourth grade boy tries to deal with his very active brother. (NoveList)
Kidd, Ronald. Night on fire. When thirteen-year-old Billie Sims learns that the Freedom Riders, a civil rights group protesting segregation on buses in the summer of 1961, will be traveling through Anniston, Alabama, she thinks change could be coming to her stubborn town. But what starts as angry grumbles soon turns to brutality, and Billie is forced to reconsider her own views. (NoveList)
Weeks, Sarah. Save me a seat. Ravi has just moved to the United States from India and has always been at the top of his class; Joe has lived in the same town his whole life and has learning problems–but when their lives intersect in the first week of fifth grade they are brought together by a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and the need to take control of their lives. (NoveList)
Hermes, Patricia. Salem witch. Told from two different perspectives, this novel, set against the backdrop of the Salem Witch Trials, follows Elizabeth Putnam, who is accused of witchcraft, and her best friend George, who must choose between the beliefs of his community and what he knows to be true. (NoveList)
Konigsburg, E. L.The mysterious edge of the heroic world. After moving to St. Malo, Florida, Amedeo, a precocious sixth-grader who dreams of someday making both an important discovery and a new friend, unites with a like-minded classmate to sort through the belongings of an eccentric, pretentious, and intriguing neighbor. (NoveList)
O’Dell, Scott. Streams to the river, river to the sea: a novel of Sacagawea. A young Shoshoni woman, accompanied by her infant and cruel husband, experiences joy and heartbreak when she joins the Lewis and Clark Expedition seeking a way to the Pacific.
Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books
Peck, Richard The Best Man. Dial, 2016 [240p] ISBN 978-0-8037-3839-3 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 4-7
“Call my story ‘A Tale of Two Weddings.’ I was in both of them.” So says narrator Archer Magill as he stands amid the cake crumbs of wedding number two, chronicling in flashback the trail between being a first-grade ring bearer in the first wedding all the way to his current role as sixth-grade best man in the latest nuptials. The reminiscences appear in episodes, beginning with his meeting with flower girl Lynette, who stands up for him despite (or because of) his split shorts in wedding one; the memories become more hilariously interconnected as the years roll past. Yet it’s all building to a point: it’s important that Lynette’s mom becomes Archer and Lynette’s teacher, and that an incompetent school secretary triggers a school lockdown and media circus when Illinois National Guardsman Ed McLeod arrives as a new student teacher. And yes, it’s important that McLeod outs himself as gay to support a student who’s been bullied, because that’s how Archer knows McLeod’s a really great guy and perfect for Uncle Paul, who’s his hero, even though Archer just figured out what everyone else already knew about Uncle Paul (now he knows why his primary-school teachers read the class And Tango Makes Three and Daddy’s Roommate). Love wins the day and, after a wild ride among a family so warm and loving and liberal and politically correct that they’ve forgotten kids may actually require information, Uncle Paul and Ed McLeod tie the knot. Everyone’s there and everyone’s happy, even “Grandpa, still there in our hearts, except for about a tablespoon of him in Wrigley Field.” Sorry, you just have to read that part for yourself. EB (July 2016) Used with the permission of Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books.
[STARRED] The Best Man by Richard Peck. Intermediate, Middle School Dial 232 pp.9/16 978-0-8037-3839-3 $16.99 ge-book ed. 978-0-698-18973-7 $10.99
Rise and toast The Best Man, Peck’s story about Archer Magill, a boy growing from a raw dollop of kindergarten id into a functional middle-school kid, a budding citizen of the world. As a participant in the two weddings that launch and conclude the novel (the first when he is six and the latter as a sixth grader), Archer is a familiar American type: a kid’s kid, of the sort readers may recognize from Beverly Cleary or Eleanor Estes. Decent, a little clueless—neither a hero nor a bystander, Archer is aware of wanting grownups to emulate. Among the men Archer applauds is his uncle Paul. That Paul turns out to be gay is not a crisis. “‘You knew I was gay, right?’ Uncle Paul sat up, pushed his ball cap back. ‘Sure,’ I said. ‘I guess. Not really. No.’” Show me six other words that capture a fifth grader so adroitly. The Best Man, refreshingly, is neither polemic nor camp-on-steroids. (That Uncle Paul’s love interest is a hunk—and Archer’s student teacher—who captivates the national Twitter-verse is perhaps the only slip toward stereotype—or are all gay men gorgeous? Just asking.) Archer’s continuing admiration of his uncle after the revelation is underplayed; this isn’t a problem novel. Uncle Paul’s life doesn’t overwhelm the parade of Archer’s school dramas involving teachers, friends, enemies, and a dying grandfather, which roll along with brio and feeling. Your reviewer here breaks convention to reveal that a child of his recently admitted to having been bullied, several years ago, for having two dads. So we’re not done needing books like this. Comic, easy to read, swiftly paced, and matter-of-fact, Peck’s latest steps out to lead the way. GREGORY MAGUIRE. From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine by permission of The Horn Book, Inc.,www.hbook.com
School Library Journal [Starred]. PECK, Richard. The Best Man. 240p. Dial. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803738393.
Gr 4-6 –The inimitable Peck frames his latest novel with weddings. Opening with a flashback to a hilariously disastrous wedding when Archer Magill was in first grade, the book closes with a significantly more staid one that occurs when he is in sixth grade. Most of the story, though, takes place between these two events, during Archer’s fifth grade year. A military-based student teacher both disrupts Archer’s class and enriches it, as does a new student who uses a wheelchair and comes from a British aristocratic background. High jinks abound, but so does serious content; in response to antigay bullying, Mr. McLeod gives the students a lecture in which he publicly outs himself, a particularly poignant moment. Outside school, Archer also shares daily adventures with his car-loving father, his grandfather (an elderly architect whose work is all over town), and his uncle Paul, whose romantic interest in Mr. McLeod might just well lead to another wedding. Here, the Newbery Award–winning author explores what it means to love and what it means to be a man. VERDICT A modern, funny, and realistic tale featuring strong, nuanced, and unforgettable characters. An essential addition for middle grade collections.–Jill Ratzan, Congregation Kol Emet, Yardley, PA. Reprinted with permission from School Library Journal, Copyright 2016.
Booklist starred (July 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 21))
[Starred] The Best Man. Peck, Richard (author). Sept. 2016. 240p. Dial, hardcover, $16.99 (9780803738393). Grades 4-6. REVIEW. First published July, 2016 (Booklist).
Two weddings bracket this amusing and ultimately moving novel narrated by 12-year-old Archer. In the first ceremony, he’s a 6-year-old ring bearer suffering from an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction. In the second, he’s the best man, resplendent in his first elegant suit. The episodic story covers all six years in between, though it focuses on the last two: fifth grade (featuring “three different teachers and a lockdown with cops” at school) and sixth, which brings a death and a wedding in the family. In two satisfying scenes, school bullies are brought low by adults. The novel’s distinctive characters are so believable that their lives seem to go on beyond the book. Always two steps behind his friend Lynette in comprehending what’s going on around him, Archer has a stout heart, an open mind, and good intentions. For years, he tends to parrot others’ opinions, but when he finally puts his own ideas together and speaks from the heart, his words and his timing couldn’t be better. This intergenerational story unfolds with a refreshing lack of sentimentality, and an emphasis on fathers and other male role models. Archer’s dad, his grandfather, and his gay uncles are portrayed with particular affection and respect. A witty, engaging novel from a master storyteller. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Peck is one of the most celebrated living writers of kid lit, and he’s even mounting a tour for this one. — Carolyn Phelan (Used with the permission of Booklist)