A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Helen Hoover (Another Heaven, Another Earth) and Lurlene McDaniel (Heart to Heart),.
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Frank Stockton (1834-1902), The Bee-Man of Orn, and Yasuo Segawa (1933-2010), Sleepy Time.
- Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), author of the autobiographical Up From Slavery was also born on this day. Read Booker T. Washington by Thomas Amper, illustrated by Jeni Reeves.
- Itâ€™s One Day Without Shoes Day highlighting the risk of disease and infection millions of children face who grow up without shoes. Read Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad by Pamela Duncan Edwards, illustrated by Henry Cole, and The Barefooted, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Tracy Dockray.
On April 5, 1934, Richard Peck was born in Decatur, Illinois. After training to be a teacher, he spent years working with students and did not write his first novel until he was thirty-seven. Then he made up for lost time!
If ever there was a Renaissance figure in the field of childrenâ€™s and young adult books, Richard Peck would certainly qualify. He has written in all genres for children and teens and has consistently produced one book of quality after another since his first Donâ€™t Look and It Wonâ€™t Hurt, published in 1972. After that book he explored some of the toughest issues of teenage life, such as suicide in Remembering the Good Times and rape in Are You in the House Alone? For this work, Peck received the Margaret A. Edwards Lifetime Achievement Award.
Then Peck distinguished himself as one of the finest humorists writing for fourth through sixth grade readers. In the late 1990s he began to develop a series of books about a hard-edged Grandma Dowdel and her two grandchildren who visit her rural Illinois home during the Depression. A Long WayÂ from Chicago won the National Book Award. Its sequel A Year Down Yonder finally brought a long-deserved Newbery Award into Peckâ€™s camp. I cannot even count the number of adults who have said to me that they believe Grandma Dowdel to be the finest adult character to appear in childrenâ€™s books.
If I had to choose one Richard Peck book (and no one should have to do this), I would select his hysterically funny work of historical fiction, The Teacherâ€™s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts, set in rural Indiana in 1904. Starting with the line â€śIf your teacher has to die, August isnâ€™t a bad time of year for it,â€ť the novel moves with grace and finesse through the experiences of Russell Culver, who attends a one-room school and has to survive his sister as a teacher. All of Peckâ€™s strengths are evident in this bookâ€”great characters, smooth and graceful writing, an ear for dialogue, laugh-out-loud humor, and human compassion and insight.
For forty years Richard Peckâ€”witty, urbane, vibrant, and committedâ€”has logged hundreds of miles visiting schools, libraries, and conferences. He has not only written some of our finest books for children and teens, he has supported the teachers and librarians who bring books to them.
Happy birthday Richard! You are a class act. As someone who speaks best for himself, Iâ€™d like Richard to have the final words of his celebration. Here are some signature Peck lines from one of his poems about reading. â€śRead to your children/Twenty minutes a day/You have the time,/And so do they.â€ť
Hereâ€™s a passage from The Teacherâ€™s Funeral:
How we learned this Miss Myrt Arbuckle had turned up her toes gets ahead of the story. This news didnâ€™t reach us till almost midnight, and then under dramatic circumstances.
But it had been a red-letter day anyhow, the main day of the year for me, better than the Fourth of July. It was the day the J.I. Case Company of Racine, Wisconsin, sent their special train down through Indiana. Weâ€™d watched for the flyers announcing it all summer. My heart was in my mouth that Dad wouldnâ€™t let us go.
The Case Special came through every August with flatcars of the latest in steam engines and threshing machines. It was better than a circus. Every man and boy from twenty miles around converged on Montezuma to see the Case Special. I walked the floor all night for fear Dad would keep us in the field. I hadnâ€™t figured out he wouldnâ€™t have missed the Case Special himself.
Originally posted April 5, 2011. Updated for .