The Best Man
We are heading towards picking our final list and I’m feeling the pressure. There are just so many amazing books, and so little time! So for today, THE BEST MAN. It came up in a couple of people’s lists, and I think it has a deserved place in our conversation.
Richard Peck is pretty much the opposite of a new kid on the block, yet he manages to keep things fresh, and his newest middle grade novel is definitely a treat. I think this title stands out for its mix of hilarity and serious, tackling intense topics with real heart and humor. I was laughing out loud during the story of the first wedding, and I’m a hard sell for humor. Like the intended audience for this book, though, I love a butt, and Archer’s telling of his own unfortunate butt reveal was hilarious. So, funny, yes. Funny, but heartfelt.
Here’s the thing. This book could easily have become a bit didactic – an issues book about bullies or an issues book about gay marriage or an issues book about death – but it doesn’t. This book is about our protagonist, Archer, and his life at school and at home and in spite of all these potential “issues,” the story moves forward with humor, grace, and authenticity. This is not a political book, it is a coming-of-age story. That doesn’t mean, though, that it won’t encourage political discussion or lead young people to think outside of their current experience. I was pleased to see a review on Amazon where a man stated plainly that he personally doesn’t politically support gay marriage but that he still gave this book 5 stars for doing what it does so well.
The audience learns about life, along with Archer, through his relationships with a slew of important adults in his life and I appreciated the importance of men and male role models in this story, even while Archer’s best friend is an amazing well-written and well-rounded female character.
Peck respects his young audience and expects them to think a little, laugh a little, and maybe even learn a little.
Is this one of my top picks? Well, it’s not in my top 5. But top 10? Maybe. Top 15? Certainly! I hope it’s a title that will be discussed by our real committee, even if it doesn’t make it onto our own little shortlist.
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About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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