The Best Man
Newbery Medalist Richard Peck brings us this big-hearted novel about gay marriage from a kid’s endearing perspectiveWhen Archer is in sixth grade, his beloved uncle Paul marries another man—Archer’s favorite student teacher. But that’s getting ahead of the story, and a wonderful story it is. In Archer’s sweetly naïve but observant voice, his life through elementary school is recounted: the outspoken, ever-loyal friends he makes, the teachers who blunder or inspire, and the family members who serve as his role models. From one exhilarating, unexpected episode to another, Archer’s story rolls along as he puzzles over the people in his life and the kind of person he wants to become…and manages to help his uncle become his best self as well.

The Best Man Details

TitleThe Best Man
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseSep 20th, 2016
PublisherDial Books
ISBN0803738390
ISBN-139780803738393
Number of pages240 pages
Rating
GenreChildrens, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Glbt, Family, Humor, Fiction, Juvenile

The Best Man Review

  • Autumn
    April 29, 2016
    In the post-Wonder world, middle grade characters in school stories are often on their best moral behavior. If not, they often get a chapter or two of the multiple perspective narrative to explain themselves. After all, everyone is doing their best, right? Richard Peck, on the other hand, does not overestimate the charity of children. His classroom as described by a sixth-grader, is populated by insufferable smarties, criers, the short kid, and the kid who is always asleep. His teachers can be h In the post-Wonder world, middle grade characters in school stories are often on their best moral behavior. If not, they often get a chapter or two of the multiple perspective narrative to explain themselves. After all, everyone is doing their best, right? Richard Peck, on the other hand, does not overestimate the charity of children. His classroom as described by a sixth-grader, is populated by insufferable smarties, criers, the short kid, and the kid who is always asleep. His teachers can be heroic, misguided, or downright hapless. His narrator sees a brief security lockdown as an exciting diversion. Peck works masterfully outside the current rules of kidlit because he wrote the game itself in the 70s. Not to say his work is crass or cynical -- it's the exact opposite. By strictly adhering to the truth of the world as experienced by elementary school students, he respectfully reveals the depth of their experiences. What a pleasure to read an utterly contemporary book by an author who has been exceeding my expectations of kidlit for my entire reading life!
    more
  • Ms. Yingling
    July 21, 2016
    Archer lives a fairly ordinary but pleasant suburban life with a fantastic family. His grandfather, an architect, designed the elementary school he attends, and walked him to school every day when he was younger. His father restores classic cars and cooks. His mother is not a wedding planner (as he thought when he was younger), but a marriage counselor. Older sister Holly, who skips a lot of high school in order to "visit colleges" is the only difficult character in the family, and bully Jackson Archer lives a fairly ordinary but pleasant suburban life with a fantastic family. His grandfather, an architect, designed the elementary school he attends, and walked him to school every day when he was younger. His father restores classic cars and cooks. His mother is not a wedding planner (as he thought when he was younger), but a marriage counselor. Older sister Holly, who skips a lot of high school in order to "visit colleges" is the only difficult character in the family, and bully Jackson Showalter is the only bad egg at school. Even he is quickly put in his place by Archer's fantastic uncle Paul, who is very metropolitan and has a job with an agency that deals with the Chicago Cubs. We follow Archer's life (through his narration) from a wedding he is forced to be ring bearer in before he starts school. There, he embarrasses himself, but meets his good friend and protector, Lynette. Every year brings different teachers, challenges, and classic cars. Unfortunately, we see Archer's grandfather's health fade over this time, and he eventually passes away. The year that Archer's class has three different teachers, including Lynette's mother, is a pivotal one, as the class has a fabulous student teacher, Andy McCleod. Andy is a military reservist who has a fresh and energetic take on teaching, and the students love him. When he defends a student who has been attacked and had "gay" written on his forehead, he also identifies himself as gay, causing a bit of an uproar but not making any difference at all to the students who love him. It's hard to say why this novel is so appealing and easy to read. Not much happens, but it's so pleasant and entertaining that I didn't care. The humor is gentle but pervasive, and Archer has a lot of intriguing interests. His family is a big fan of the Cubs, they build Lego villages together and deal with the death of the grandfather in a realistic and constructive manner. We follow his elementary years up through 6th grade, when his class moves unexpectedly to middle school after a school reconfiguration. In addition to great family characters, Archer is surrounded by interesting teachers and classmates. Lynnette is forthright, no nonsense, and able to stand up to anyone who gives Archer a hard time. When her mother becomes their teacher, she is able to compartmentalize herself and not be bothered by this. Mr. McCleod is a great teacher without being overly sentimentalized. The big talking point of the book will be that Archer realizes (much after everyone else) that his favorite uncle is gay, but this really wasn't main point of the story. Yes, the uncle gets married to a man, but this was addressed in such a supportive and accepting way that it was never an "issue". It was just life. The fact that the topic is raised in the book will still upset people, which is too bad. If all families were able to weather their difficulties with the grace and fortitude of Archer's family, the world would be a better place. The Best Man is a great choice for readers who can handle quiet but interesting books that emphasize the importance of family, such as Connor's All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Graff's Lost in the Sun, or Messner's The Seventh Wish. Mr. Peck says in this interview with Roger Sutton of Horn Book that there are no villains in The Best Man because he wanted the book to be "a hymn of joy". After the events of this summer, and the Year of Sad Reading that 2016 turned out to be, I don't think we need to look any further than that statement to realize why this was such a blissfully relieving book to read.
    more
  • JesusBeezus
    March 17, 2016
    Gorgeous book full of deep humanity. One of Peck's absolute best. Deserves all the awards. I've been waiting for a great book for middle readers that includes gay marriage without comment, one that is full of love. This book deserves to be read widely.Thank you, Mr. Peck.
    more
  • Donalyn
    January 15, 2016
    While I appreciate the message of this book and agree we need good stories about gay marriage, I struggled to imagine what kid I would share it with next. The kids didn't sound like kids and the wit and cultural references seemed a better fit for adults. Disappointing. I know that this book has received starred reviews, but I want to talk to any children who have read it.
    more
  • Randee
    October 29, 2016
    I loved this. It's a quick read but I think the author really caught the essence of a young boy growing up in a suburb of Chicago. If I had a child, I would definitely read this together because I think there are some wonderful life lessons in here without being preachy. I read it in two short sittings and I will even say I found it heartwarming. (Hard to grab the heart of a cynic like me, but as my best friend would tease, "It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.")
    more
  • Brittany
    May 12, 2016
    Archer Magill is going to be one of the best new voices in kids literature. He's just kind of gloriously naive about all these incredibly important things going on around him in only a way that an 11 year old can be. There's a fair amount of change going on in his life -- a new school, a death in the family and the realization that a favorite family member is gay -- and he has a way of rolling with these changes that is so simple and just makes sense. Is it weird to envy a fictional 11 year old Archer Magill is going to be one of the best new voices in kids literature. He's just kind of gloriously naive about all these incredibly important things going on around him in only a way that an 11 year old can be. There's a fair amount of change going on in his life -- a new school, a death in the family and the realization that a favorite family member is gay -- and he has a way of rolling with these changes that is so simple and just makes sense. Is it weird to envy a fictional 11 year old boy? Because I kind of do. There is some gentle humor here, but I think it's more for the adults reading. For everyone reading, the non-issue of gay marriage is handled beautifully and how I hope everyone can come to view it eventually. The underlying message of acceptance and love is sure to make this title a natural choice for middle grade readers.
    more
  • Destinee Sutton
    July 4, 2016
    I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's hard for me to even write a review of this book I loved it so much. So I guess I will just list things I loved about it. -I loved Archer's voice. -I loved the plot structure, bookended by weddings, and told as if Archer is talking to the reader, guiding the reader through his 1st grade year to his 6th grade year. -I loved Archer's family: his cook/mechanic dad, his psychologist mom, his architect grandpa, his Uncle Paul. Even his irritating sister Holly and his witchy gran I LOVE THIS BOOK. It's hard for me to even write a review of this book I loved it so much. So I guess I will just list things I loved about it. -I loved Archer's voice. -I loved the plot structure, bookended by weddings, and told as if Archer is talking to the reader, guiding the reader through his 1st grade year to his 6th grade year. -I loved Archer's family: his cook/mechanic dad, his psychologist mom, his architect grandpa, his Uncle Paul. Even his irritating sister Holly and his witchy grandma. -I loved that the book is realistic and not. Events are believable, but things like Lynette's overly mature outlook and the character of Little Lord Hilary are larger than life. See also: how often Archer's school makes headlines and Ms. Roebuck's computer incompetence. Stylistically, this enhances the feeling that Archer is trying to tell the reader a good story and perhaps fudging a bit to make it better, which accounts for things not being entirely believable. -I love, love, loved Mr. McLeod (I had to Google how to pronounce that name - it's "McCloud"). I've complained in the past about too many children's books relying on the magic teacher trope - you know, like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. But Mr. McLeod, in my opinion, isn't a magic teacher stereotype. Sure, he's young and exciting, but there's way more to him than just being a great teacher. -I love how funny and joyful this book is. Especially in 2016, which I dubbed the Year of Sad after reading offerings by some of kidlit's most prominent authors (see my review of Maybe a Fox). I sincerely hope this will be one of our Mock Newbery books this year. Last year we got a little bit of resistance with The Thing About Jellyfish because there was a relatively minor gay character. Being that most of our Mock Newbery participants are in 5th grade and this book is pretty squarely about 5th/6th graders, I feel confident we can put it on the ballot if the rest of the committee agrees that it's really high quality literature for kids. And, you know, if it won the real Newbery, I wouldn't be upset.
    more
  • Mary Ann
    July 13, 2016
    Some favorite quotes I want to hang onto before I pass my copy along:"Kids know most things before their grown-ups know they know. We're older than we look. It's complicated. We're older than we act." (ARC, 53) -- yes, absolutely "Lynette's eyes rolled. 'It's not just his dog. Look at the collar on it. It's some kind of official dog, a professional. Maybe it can sniff out narcotics or dead bodies. Maybe it's trained to attack immature students who never notice anything.'" (ARC 76) -- love her sn Some favorite quotes I want to hang onto before I pass my copy along:"Kids know most things before their grown-ups know they know. We're older than we look. It's complicated. We're older than we act." (ARC, 53) -- yes, absolutely "Lynette's eyes rolled. 'It's not just his dog. Look at the collar on it. It's some kind of official dog, a professional. Maybe it can sniff out narcotics or dead bodies. Maybe it's trained to attack immature students who never notice anything.'" (ARC 76) -- love her snark!"'We all need goals,' he said. 'Here's one: 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.'" (ARC, 110)"It was dark when we hit the Illinois line. I was feeling a little older, or something. Trying to talk to Uncle Paul about him and Mr. McLeod was different for me. It was a little bit like being in middle school a year early. You're drop-kicked into new territory. I was wondering how much change you have to go through before your voice does." (ARC, 163)"'Being gay isn't a decision. How you live your life is a decision.'" (ARC, 196)
    more
  • Jeremiah Henderson
    July 12, 2016
    I really tried to like this book, but there were several things that completely ruined it for me:1. The dialogue of the children was not authentic and was too grown up.2. The story was all over the place and didn't focus on the wedding until the very last chapter.3. Being the best man was maybe a few pages. So the title doesn't make sense.4. Being gay took a back seat in this book and other side plots took center stage. Sorry Richard, but this one for me will stay on the shelf.
    more
  • paula
    December 1, 2016
    Agghhh!! I'm drowning in a sea of ambivalence!This book is terrific. The writing, the insight, the characters - all the things that are here are terrific. It's like... like the objects in the curio cabinet in my mother's dining room. Each item: each miniature domino set, porcelain sea urchin, loose semiprecious gemstone, expedition medal and antique fountain pen is a treasure, and each for different reasons. In this book, the parents who work from home, one as a marriage counselor, the other res Agghhh!! I'm drowning in a sea of ambivalence!This book is terrific. The writing, the insight, the characters - all the things that are here are terrific. It's like... like the objects in the curio cabinet in my mother's dining room. Each item: each miniature domino set, porcelain sea urchin, loose semiprecious gemstone, expedition medal and antique fountain pen is a treasure, and each for different reasons. In this book, the parents who work from home, one as a marriage counselor, the other restoring antique automobiles - are treasures. Grandpa the architect, in his seersucker suit and straw hat - a treasure. Uncle Paul, in his bespoke sportcoat and wingtips, who will turn out to be both wise and gay, is a treasure. Archer's house is a treasure. Large, square, situated in a "leafy suburb" of Chicago - I can picture it, I just can't afford it.Which is not entirely an insignificant point. Because, like my mom's beautifully lit collection, this book is just about the whitest thing I've come across in a long time. There are things that are *not* here, amid its sparkling array of treasures. There don't seem to be any black people, for one thing. Nor anyone with a Hispanic or Asian surname. And, regardless of the skillful references to Angry Birds and YouTube and Uncle Paul's wedding - it is missing a true feeling of contemporaneity.Now of course my mom's cabinet doesn't have to represent every facet of the human experience. It would be weird, for example, for her to include a set of manumission papers - to our knowledge, nobody in our family was ever enslaved. And the expedition medal is an object to be proud of - not everybody does the dangerous thing for which it was awarded. But at the time it was given, it was almost exclusively white men who had the opportunity to earn it.And while Mom may add a new item to that cabinet every few years, it is by its nature disconnected from the present time. That collection (and I consider this a compliment rather than the reverse) reflects her point of view, and her point of view is that of a white woman born in a leafy suburb sometime before the middle of the last century. In the case of The Best Man, I feel a similar point of view applies. And it's not - it's a valid point of view, and for sure there are kids in Evanston going to one-class-per-grade seemingly all-white elementary schools that are close enough to walk to. But although this may be an increasingly rare point of view, it's not one that is lacking in representation.I also have something of an issue with the hunky student teacher who shakes up Archer's fifth grade school year. All of a sudden, there are field trips! Something new every day! Mr McLeod takes over for the regular teacher, Mrs. Stanley, when she gets tripped up by improper fractions. Really? Guy teacher shows the ladies How It's Done? Hrrumph.But my gosh, it just KILLS me to quibble with this book. Uncle Paul's orientation, love story, and wedding are treated so wonderfully - that is, as if being gay were not a big thing, which it isn't. In many families. In many communities. But not all. So that's really nice.And lord Richard Peck is funny. And his main character learns some things without the reader feeling Taught, which is no mean feat. I personally, a white woman born in a leafy suburb who walked to school until she was 17, very much enjoyed the book. But I think its time, like the quotidian antiques resting on glass shelves in my mom's dining room, has passed. Now is the time for it to be admired for its form and craft, because we are not likely to need to use it.
    more
  • Sarah
    September 20, 2016
    In the introduction to the ARC, author Richard Peck says he wrote this book in order to shed light on the issue of same-sex marriage. Reading this I admittedly had misgivings. Not because I have any negative feelings towards people who identify as homosexual but, rather because I worried the purpose of writing this middle grade novel was to fill some sort of quota, check off the "diversity in literature" box, thus making oneself feel good. Fortunately, the focus of the story was not the sexual o In the introduction to the ARC, author Richard Peck says he wrote this book in order to shed light on the issue of same-sex marriage. Reading this I admittedly had misgivings. Not because I have any negative feelings towards people who identify as homosexual but, rather because I worried the purpose of writing this middle grade novel was to fill some sort of quota, check off the "diversity in literature" box, thus making oneself feel good. Fortunately, the focus of the story was not the sexual orientation of two of the characters, so it does not come off as preachy nor as a lesson in same-sex marriage.Narrator Archer Magill admires four men in his life; his grandfather, father, uncle, and Illinois National Guardsman turned fifth-grade student teacher, Mr. McLeod. Archer details the adventures and wisdom these men impart on his life along with chronicling his school career from the first through seventh grades. Quirky classmates add spark to the story as does the tender and bittersweet relationship with his beloved grandfather. Would be a good choice for reluctant readers seeking a book about fairly ordinary, easily relatable young boys.I do want to offer some critiques because, as an elementary school teacher, there were a few elements that just did not jive. For one thing, the knowledge of the kids comes into play. Case in point: six-year-old children remarking on a fellow classmate being "disarmed" by the school security guard. Doubtful most first graders would be familiar with this term. Also unlikely a fifth-grade boy would describe something as a nuclear winter yet not know basic geography. And, standard testing does NOT occur the last three days of school! No biggie, but these minor details nagged at me just a bit.Overall, worthy of a look for those interested.
    more
  • Dana
    December 9, 2016
    I was so disappointed in this book and although I was almost done I never finished it. There were so many problems with this book that I am shocked it is getting such high stars! The one thing it did have going for it was the kind and open family Archer lived in and all the great male role models. I like the grandfather, the uncle, the dad, and Mr. Mcleod fine. What I HATED (view spoiler)[was the way all the female characters were portrayed. Here's the breakdown...-Awkward know-it-all's without I was so disappointed in this book and although I was almost done I never finished it. There were so many problems with this book that I am shocked it is getting such high stars! The one thing it did have going for it was the kind and open family Archer lived in and all the great male role models. I like the grandfather, the uncle, the dad, and Mr. Mcleod fine. What I HATED (view spoiler)[was the way all the female characters were portrayed. Here's the breakdown...-Awkward know-it-all's without Hermione Granger's charms.-The young, fresh from college teacher who can't figure out how to send an email or use a printer and needs a teen boy to help her--seriously!!!!-The pregnant teacher who can't think about anything except her gestation and therefore teaches it to her 4th grade class--because ladies only think about babies!-The mom, who after divorce goes back to her teaching career but can't do math (thankfully Mr. Mcleod shows up to really teach the kids--ugh!)-The elementary school receptionist, who upon seeing a man dressed in his Army Reservist garb walk into the school freaks out and calls 911 and the swat team arrives--because ladies are so hysterical!Ugh...I could go on and on and on. Oh wait, I almost forgot Hilary, the boy from England (a century ago maybe) and carries his books tied in string and is in a wheelchair because the cars drive on the wrong side of the road here. He was just the worst. (hide spoiler)]Sorry, I typically love Richard Peck books but this one was just too annoying.
    more
  • Terri
    August 7, 2016
    The iconic Richard Peck is back with what I feel is his greatest book to date: "The Best Man." I had the privilege of hearing Peck speak about his latest novel at Day of Dialogue in Chicago in May where I received an ARC of this book (which he so graciously signed!). The book comes out in September of 2016 - next month.In his Day of Dialogue presentation, Peck said that he became a writer because his mother read to him and because of his 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Cole, who handed him a copy of "Hu The iconic Richard Peck is back with what I feel is his greatest book to date: "The Best Man." I had the privilege of hearing Peck speak about his latest novel at Day of Dialogue in Chicago in May where I received an ARC of this book (which he so graciously signed!). The book comes out in September of 2016 - next month.In his Day of Dialogue presentation, Peck said that he became a writer because his mother read to him and because of his 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Cole, who handed him a copy of "Huckleberry Finn" and said, "Here. You might try this." He began as a teacher and then left teaching to "communicate with his students through writing." Teachers and role models play heavily into "The Best Man." Archer Magill, the first person narrator of the story, begins at the end (with the second wedding) and then goes back to tell us the story of the first wedding and his first through sixth grade years. He is a boy looking for role models - and he finds them in the form of his dad, his grandpa, his Uncle Paul, and his student teacher in fifth grade, Mr. McLeod - "Those were the four I wanted to be." (p. 132) The story reads fast. Peck is a master at chapter endings and hooks that make the reader to turn immediately to the next page and read on! "The Best Man" is filled with humor, sorrow, and one touching moment after another. I balled through 75% of the book - happy, sobbing, snot infused crying! I loved every second of it! The characters, whether they are major players (Archer, Lynette Stanley, Uncle Paul) or have smaller roles (Grandma, Natalie Schuster, Holly, Josh Hunnicutt, Reginald, and Mrs. Dempsey), are all interesting, believable (well...the Honorable Hilary Evelyn Calthorpe is a bit over the top), and compelling. But Archer is really who drives this story. His view of the events that go on around him, and the people in his life, is honest and humorous. The fact that he tells it like it happened, and doesn't over-dramatize, feels real and authentic. He is slow to catch on to things that are obvious to others, and gets tired of "everyone talking around me" (p. 137), which provides some great humor to the story. The diversity of the cast in terms of age and sexual identity is refreshing.There are so many themes that are relevant to 2016 - and universal at the same time. This is a story about how important is it for young people to have role models in their lives, about the ebb and flow of friendships, about the significance of present and caring adults in the lives of young people, and about growing up. It is also about divorce, loss, sexual identity, bullying, the power of great teachers, and more - though these aren't the major focus of the story. There are so many great lessons for all of us to be found here.Some lessons to remember (though these are more meaningful in context): p. 53 - "Kids know most things before their grown-ups know they know. We're older than we look. It's complicated. We're older than we act."p. 104 - "It was like this was the beginning of being a kid for him."p. 110 - "'We all need goals...Here's one: 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.'"p. 112 - "'Gay's not a random word...It's an identity...It's my identity."p. 122 - That's the end of school for you. You wait and wait. Then it's over before you're ready."p. 158 - "'You work with what you've got.'"p. 166 - "'How am I going to mean as much to you as my dad meant to me?' he said. 'Dad, you do,' I said. 'You're there.'"p. 183 - "'Archer, spell this out for me as simply as you can. Why can't the school protect its own students with its own resources?' "That's easy. Bullies have parents too, and schools don't have diplomatic immunity.'"p. 194 - "'Then in the dark Uncle Paul said, 'You're growing up, Archer.' "Not fast enough,' I said. 'The voice. Other stuff. Where it it?'...'You're learning to listen,' said Uncle Paul. 'That's more than a start.'"And Peck's prose is just spot on. I loved passages like, "We rumbled of, into summer." (p. 122), " I braced. There was no seat belt for the middle passenger, and I was scared Holly was going to U-turn. You don't do that in a '92 Lincoln. It's an aircraft carrier. You'd take out a front porch, and I could end up as the hood ornament." (p. 125), the sequence on where Archer asks his Uncle Paul if he might be gay and his uncle asks him about moisturizing and exfoliation and his wardrobe is hilarious (p. 132), and the description of the lighted model of Chicago and the buildings Archer's grandpa had designed is exquisite (while in Chicago in May, I saw the exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry that Archer refers to here) (pp. 88 -9)!!!"The Best Man" has received stared reviews from "Booklist," "School Library Journal," "Publisher's Weekly," and many others - all richly deserved! We will hear a lot about this one when awards season roles around! I can't recommend a book more highly! This one is for all ages!
    more
  • Amy Formanski Duffy
    August 18, 2016
    Very charming story of a 6th grade boy with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR positive male role models: his dad, his grandpa, his uncle and his teacher. Archer's Uncle Paul is the coolest: the snappiest dresser with the hottest car AND he has connections to get into Wrigley Field. He also happens to be gay, but that's NBD. The student teacher in Archer's 5th grade class is Mr. McLeod, a military man AND is the handsomest guy in Illinois. He has to sneak into school just to avoid marriage pr Very charming story of a 6th grade boy with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR positive male role models: his dad, his grandpa, his uncle and his teacher. Archer's Uncle Paul is the coolest: the snappiest dresser with the hottest car AND he has connections to get into Wrigley Field. He also happens to be gay, but that's NBD. The student teacher in Archer's 5th grade class is Mr. McLeod, a military man AND is the handsomest guy in Illinois. He has to sneak into school just to avoid marriage proposals. Turns out he's also gay. Archer's a little slow on the uptake about Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod's romance, but once he knows what's up he's determined to make sure Uncle Paul doesn't screw this relationship up. Because Mr. McLeod is a keeper. So much to love here: Chicago, baseball, modern families, typical middle school shenanigans. My only mild criticism: the kids speak like adults. It's funny, but maybe not so realistic. Still, books where a gay marriage is just another normal family event are in need and this one is so endearing. It made me smile during a rough week. Curious to see what kids will think of it, since some of my coworkers think it's written more for adults.
    more
  • Crystal Faris
    July 3, 2016
    I am a Richard Peck fan and found this middle grade novel another winner from a great author. There were many passages I read out loud to myself just to enjoy the words - all felt carefully selected and true. Archer attends two weddings for this book - one when he totally embarrasses his very young self and one in which his favorite person, his uncle, gets married. Reading Archer's relationships with great male role models in his father, his grandfather, his teacher, and his uncle felt for this I am a Richard Peck fan and found this middle grade novel another winner from a great author. There were many passages I read out loud to myself just to enjoy the words - all felt carefully selected and true. Archer attends two weddings for this book - one when he totally embarrasses his very young self and one in which his favorite person, his uncle, gets married. Reading Archer's relationships with great male role models in his father, his grandfather, his teacher, and his uncle felt for this adult that these role models are what we want for all our children. And then when his uncle and his teacher begin a relationship that ends in marriage (not really a spoiler...The Best Man is the title!), this adult reader felt that this is how we understand in story form what it means to say "love is love is love is love." Told with humor and honesty, this book wins with me.
    more
  • Ariel Birdoff
    August 3, 2016
    A 10 year old boy's take on love, life, marriage, and role models. Do yourself a favor: read it.
  • hpboy13
    January 9, 2017
    Richard Peck is a living legend, having defined the last 150 years of American history for children in a way no textbook ever could. And with The Best Man, one of the crowning achievements of a storied writing career, he proves that he is at home in the 2010s as in the 1920s.I meant to read twenty pages before going to sleep. Instead, I read the entire book in one sitting, in my bed as the sky began to lighten. I could not put it down. I was bursting into laughter all the time. And at one point, Richard Peck is a living legend, having defined the last 150 years of American history for children in a way no textbook ever could. And with The Best Man, one of the crowning achievements of a storied writing career, he proves that he is at home in the 2010s as in the 1920s.I meant to read twenty pages before going to sleep. Instead, I read the entire book in one sitting, in my bed as the sky began to lighten. I could not put it down. I was bursting into laughter all the time. And at one point, in a scene with Archer and his dad (you know the one if you’ve read it!), I felt my eyes well with tears.The book echoes Peck’s best works, A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder. It’s about children navigating the confusing world of adults, wide-eyed and wondering and observing everything through a unique lens. Peck’s stories are sweet, though stopping just short of schmaltzy. And some things – important family dynamics, the no-nonsense nature of childhood friendships, the weirdness of school, the misfortune of bullies being a thing – are timeless. And the refreshing thing about Peck’s characters is that none of them, whether bullied or from divorced families or differently abled, see themselves as victims and whine about it.Were that all there was to say about the book – it sweetly and perfectly captures a slice of childhood – that would get five stars already. But this has the bonus of also being a Very Important Book through its inclusion (I’m hesitant to say “focus”) of homosexuality. It’s the reality of the 21st century, and this book captures the questions raised, as well as how easily children can accept things. It captures the different kinds of masculinity one can encounter these days, and makes them all equally valid.I have a feeling this book will do an awful lot to create a generation with liberal views on LGBT people. Every school and library should immediately stock up on copies. Personally, I can’t wait to give it to my niece in a few years to teach her about differing sexualities.
    more
  • Kristen
    December 14, 2016
    This was all kinds of adorable, and great for both upper-elementary and middle-grade students. Archer has a fantastic and hilarious narrative voice, and he's such a likable character that kids will relate to. I have to admit to being SLIGHTLY annoyed by the short, choppy sentences that are used to tell the story--I don't know if that's a Richard Peck thing or just something that was employed here due to the audience. However, I noticed it less and less as the story went on.Archer just has such a This was all kinds of adorable, and great for both upper-elementary and middle-grade students. Archer has a fantastic and hilarious narrative voice, and he's such a likable character that kids will relate to. I have to admit to being SLIGHTLY annoyed by the short, choppy sentences that are used to tell the story--I don't know if that's a Richard Peck thing or just something that was employed here due to the audience. However, I noticed it less and less as the story went on.Archer just has such a fantastic way of observing and commenting on the world around him...On standardized tests:"Good day?" Dad inquired. "I didn't have a day, Dad. It was testing." "What did they test you on?" "Dad, if I knew, I'd tell you."On puberty:I sat up. "Mom, I'm not ready. This isn't the body I wanted to take to middle school. Look at it. I need another year. I'm pre---what?" "Prepubescent?" Mom offered. "Probably. You'll have to homeschool me." On family revelations:"We talked about...Excalibur?" Mom pondered. "Excalibur. Isn't that a sword?" "I think it's something you rub on your face." "Exfoliant? You talked about exfoliant?" "We touched on it," I said. "Uncle Paul likes to keep his skin in shape. Also, he's gay."Hilarious.
    more
  • Jan
    October 28, 2016
    I loved this book so much and really didn't want the story to end. I wanted so badly to stay with all these characters much, much longer. I fell in love with just about everyone in this endearing story. I don't think Richard Peck has written a story with this much warmth and humor since A Long Way from Chicago, and its two sequels, A Year Down Yonder, and A Season of Gifts. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to have all the sweet and wonderful characters be my friends or family, or at least my next do I loved this book so much and really didn't want the story to end. I wanted so badly to stay with all these characters much, much longer. I fell in love with just about everyone in this endearing story. I don't think Richard Peck has written a story with this much warmth and humor since A Long Way from Chicago, and its two sequels, A Year Down Yonder, and A Season of Gifts. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to have all the sweet and wonderful characters be my friends or family, or at least my next door neighbors so I could see them regularly and have them be a part of my life. Okay, I stop gushing now. Seriously, I'll stop.
    more
  • Jennifer
    October 4, 2016
    A charming slice of Mid-western middle school life, as translated by a lovable young man who is always one step behind the curve. His reactions to the death of his grandfather, the realization that a family member is gay and the acceptance of a differently abled classmate are sweet and realistic. I'm considering it for 5th grade read aloud.
    more
  • Dani
    November 6, 2016
    Far-fetched and funny. I was on board with just about everything except the bit where British colonialism was invoked for light humor. I'm also puzzled by Peck's hope that the novel won't be interpreted as being "political," as if fiction isn't always political.
    more
  • Jen Petro-Roy
    August 21, 2016
    This is a new favorite. I've never actually read one of Richard Peck's books before, but I will for sure be checking more out. A quiet book with a feel of a classic, this tackles contemporary issues in a solid, earnest, and lovely way.
  • Nann
    July 25, 2016
    (I got the ARC at BEA.)Peck is a master at combining fast-paced style with substance. This is a wonderful story about families, relationships (straight and gay), and growing up told from 11-year-old Archer Magill's point of view. That it's set in suburban Chicago made it all the better for me.
    more
  • DaNae
    January 16, 2016
    Very Richard Peck: funny, encouraging, incredulous at lax civility, with a tinge of grumpy old man grumbling around the state of today's world. All the while celebrating the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that ignited this story.
  • Sarah
    November 29, 2016
    One of my favorite books of the year! Humor and a heartwarming story that touches on important subjects.
  • Stephanie
    March 17, 2017
    Ahhhh! I just finished this and loved almost everything about it SO MUCH - and the ending in particular was just wonderful!I adored Richard Peck's Blossom Culp books when I was a teen, but for some reason I hadn't read any of his books since then. What a mistake! I picked this one up just to read the opening (to figure out whether it was worth reading later) this morning...and just finished it now, less than 6 hours later, despite having a LOT of stuff to do in-between. I just couldn't stop read Ahhhh! I just finished this and loved almost everything about it SO MUCH - and the ending in particular was just wonderful!I adored Richard Peck's Blossom Culp books when I was a teen, but for some reason I hadn't read any of his books since then. What a mistake! I picked this one up just to read the opening (to figure out whether it was worth reading later) this morning...and just finished it now, less than 6 hours later, despite having a LOT of stuff to do in-between. I just couldn't stop reading! I was totally sucked in by the fabulous voice, the hilarity, and the love among all of these awesome characters.The Best Man starts with one wedding - when 6-year-old Archer makes an unexpected best friend during the most humiliating ring-bearer experience EVER - and ends (this is not a spoiler) with another much happier one 6 years later. In-between, he goes through wacky, hilarious adventures, he grows up, he loses one incredibly important relative, and he gains another, as he helps out with the sweet, funny romance between his uncle Paul and his favorite student teacher, Mr. McLeod. Throughout, he's surrounded with wonderfully eccentric family members and friends, and the whole thing is so funny and delightful - except when it's unexpectedly, beautifully moving.The only reason this isn't a 5-star book for me is that there is one British character introduced in the second half who made me groan because every line of his dialogue felt like such an outdated collection of American clichés about Brits. Every other character in this book was wonderful, even the less pleasant ones, but the Hon. Hilary Evelyn came straight out of the Hollywood-posh-English book of stereotypes. There was clearly not enough research done on actual British kids and schools in the 21st century, because he flinches with shock and horror when he hears school bells for the first time in his new American school (despite the fact that school bells ARE in fact used and terrifyingly loud in all of the English schools I've ever visited in real life!), he and his mother (a career diplomat posted in Chicago, so someone who should know WAY better) both spout colonialist lines that would make any modern British kid or diplomat be considered horrifyingly offensive without any self-consciousnessness, etc., etc., etc.So. I really, truly wished that character had never been introduced!But everything else about this book was truly wonderful, so I kept reading anyway, and the ending made me tear up in the best way. SUCH a lovely wedding scene, such a happy, loving, funny, sad, true book. It would have been perfect without the Hon. Hilary Evelyn! And even with the inclusion of the HHE, I still read the whole book in less than 6 hours and will now be hunting down every other Richard Peck book that I've missed in the last 20+ years. (But I'll avoid any that are set in the UK, I think.)
    more
  • Rebecca Saxon
    March 15, 2017
    An absolutely charming book, and the type of book I've been wishing would be published for middle graders (and finally has been): a fun yet thoughtful story that deals with being gay in an age-appropriate way (in terms of understanding) for middle graders. The narrator, Archer, has a great voice and is wonderfully portrayed in the audiobook by Michael Crouch (my new favorite audio narrator). The story is framed by two weddings, one at the beginning with a hysterical (yet disastrous) event and th An absolutely charming book, and the type of book I've been wishing would be published for middle graders (and finally has been): a fun yet thoughtful story that deals with being gay in an age-appropriate way (in terms of understanding) for middle graders. The narrator, Archer, has a great voice and is wonderfully portrayed in the audiobook by Michael Crouch (my new favorite audio narrator). The story is framed by two weddings, one at the beginning with a hysterical (yet disastrous) event and the final one the (smooth and moving) wedding of Archer's uncle to his favorite student teacher, Mr. McLeod. Peck deftly handles Archer learning first that Mr. McLeod is gay, and then that his uncle Paul is gay. I loved that Peck didn't dwell in outdated, homophobic assumptions about being gay but nicely handled some of the questions that may arise for a kid like Archer growing up in a liberal (and quirky house), such as if half of his male role models are gay does that mean he is. I actually really liked that the book never answers whether Archer is gay or not; he's still a kid and doesn't know, and it's not dwelt on in an angsty way. Some of the book is over-the-top with its quirkiness, but that just added to its charm for me. I should note this book definitely takes place in a wealthy white suburb of Chicago and doesn't feel very diverse (other than its inclusion of gay characters).
    more
  • Mrs. Trekas
    March 13, 2017
    There are a thousand reasons why I loved this book. Seriously. Here's the biggest one. In the book two characters are gay. And that's it. There is no overly dramatic nonsense explaining it. No unnecessary drama. It's just stated. Like you were explaining one of them was left handed or one wears glasses. It did not become the character's identifier. It was just another part of who they are. And I love that! So often when characters explain something like sexuality in a book it becomes their ident There are a thousand reasons why I loved this book. Seriously. Here's the biggest one. In the book two characters are gay. And that's it. There is no overly dramatic nonsense explaining it. No unnecessary drama. It's just stated. Like you were explaining one of them was left handed or one wears glasses. It did not become the character's identifier. It was just another part of who they are. And I love that! So often when characters explain something like sexuality in a book it becomes their identifier. It's all we know of them. This book does NOT do that (I am happy to say). It's lovely. It's honest.
    more
  • Julie
    March 12, 2017
    3.5⭐ I enjoyed getting to know Archer, but I'm not sure how he'll relate to kid readers. 3.5⭐️ I enjoyed getting to know Archer, but I'm not sure how he'll relate to kid readers.
  • Amy Rae
    February 14, 2017
    There's a lot to recommend this book, to be honest. The author is a funny writer with smooth prose, I liked the characters a lot, and for a guy born in 1934, Richard Peck is pretty darned good at writing about social media and viral content. Not perfect--I think the long-term interest in Archer's hot substitute teacher lasts a little too long--but darned good. I just had two problems that make it hard for me to give the book a higher rating:1. I don't know how I would market this book to actual There's a lot to recommend this book, to be honest. The author is a funny writer with smooth prose, I liked the characters a lot, and for a guy born in 1934, Richard Peck is pretty darned good at writing about social media and viral content. Not perfect--I think the long-term interest in Archer's hot substitute teacher lasts a little too long--but darned good. I just had two problems that make it hard for me to give the book a higher rating:1. I don't know how I would market this book to actual kids. The book isn't really about weddings, whatever you might think from the title and marketing copy; while weddings bookend Archer's story, the majority of the book is actually a school story. A long school story--it covers all of elementary school and a little of middle school for this kid. It's kind of shaggy in its structure, and while that's part of the book's charm, I found myself a little at a loss as to how to get it into other people's hands. "It looks like it's about weddings, but they're actually a minor part of the story, relatively speaking! It's actually about this middle-school kid who goes to school with crazy characters, but the book starts when he's just starting elementary school!" It's hard to sell this book quickly without being misleading about the content. I'm sure someone smarter than me has a good answer for this dilemma, but so far, I don't.2. Peck's funny, but sometimes his humor gets away from him a little. Au pairs gathering outside a school for weeks to see a hot guy who was in the news is amusing, but it's kind of over the top. Same with girls nearly fainting away at the thought of said hot guy. And then there's UK transfer student Hilary Calthorpe, who's a rolling (he's currently using a wheelchair), talking Little Lord Fauntleroy figure who at least once refers to the Empire and generally serves as a parody of England ca. 1920-something. He feels out of place in what is, at its best, a chill book about everyday life and the occasional gay wedding. But seriously, I really liked the characters and I was super happy that Archer's teacher and his uncle getting together. It's handled really sweetly, and while the book is primarily about Archer, the adults are characterized well enough that you really come to like them, too. It reminded me a lot of The Wednesday Wars--a book in which I got SUPER INVESTED in the main character's teacher's love life, lmao--in that regard.The audiobook was pretty great. Michael Crouch has a very familiar sounding voice, but if I've heard him read other books, I don't know which ones.
    more
Write a review