RICHARD PECK (1934-2018) was born in Decatur, Illinois and lived in New York City for nearly 50 years. The acclaimed author of 35 novels for children and young adults, he won the Newbery Medal for A Year Down Yonder, a Newbery Honor for A Long Way from Chicago, the Scott O'Dell Award for The River Between Us, the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Are You in the House Alone?, a Boston Globe-Horn BookAward Honor for The Best Man, and the Christopher Medal for The Teacher's Funeral. He was the first children's author ever to have been awarded a National Humanities Medal, and was twice a National Book Award Finalist.
"If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it," begins Peck's (A Year Down Under) latest rural comedy, set in the "backwoodsiest corner of Indiana." Just before school starts in 1904, a "miracle" occurs for 15-year-old Russell Culver and his classmates at Hominy Ridge School: Miss Myrt Arbuckle, the schoolmarm ("she must have been forty... [and] past her prime"), suddenly drops dead. Russell has high hopes that the school board will close the one-room schoolhouse. But as luck would have it, his high-school-age sister, Tansy, is hired to take Miss Myrt's place. What follows is a series of hilarious episodes, colorfully narrated by Russell, which recount Tansy's trials and tribulations attempting to educate a motley crew of pupils and maintain some order. Tansy and her students survive a privy fire, an explosion inside the school, a run-in with a snake and threats from neighboring "Aunt" Fannie Hamline, who accuses the students of "trespassin' and stealin'." Events on their own are enough to keep readers in stitches, but Russell's pithy descriptions of characters ("[Miss Myrt] had a snout on her long enough to drink water down a crawdad hole") add another dimension of humor. Following the tradition of Mark Twain, Peck gently pokes fun at social manners and captures local color while providing first-rate entertainment. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Gr 6 Up-C'mon back to rural Indiana in 1904 and join 15-year-old Russell, whose summer ends with the unexpected death of old Miss Myrt Arbuckle. Russell and his younger brother are thrilled because just maybe the school board will decide to stop its foolishness and tear down the one-room schoolhouse. Surely it doesn't pay to hire a new teacher for the six students who attend. But to his utter horror, one is hired and it's none other than his extremely bossy older sister, even though she still has a year left of high school herself. Tansy takes to teaching with vigor and manages to circumvent all of the high jinx and calamities that threaten to undermine her authority, such as an accidental fire in the privy and a puff adder in her desk drawer. Peck expertly evokes humor and colloquial speech and mores with such sentences as "The water wasn't crotch-deep on a dwarf at that point," and "She had a snout on her long enough to drink water down a crawdad hole." Even readers who are blas? about current technological advances will be as excited as Russell is when he sees the steel Case Agitator threshing machine down from Wisconsin on its once-yearly exhibit, or the Overland Automobile Company's Bullet No. 2 racing car that can travel a mile in an unheard-of 43 seconds. Another gem from Peck-and a fabulous lead-in to titles such as Olive Burns's Cold Sassy Tree (Houghton, 1984).-Susan Riley, Mount Kisco Public Library, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"Peck is in his element here. [S]o vivid is the telling of every event, conversation, and emotion. Best of all, the dry wit and unpretentious tone make the story's events comical, its characters memorable, and its conclusion unexpectedly moving."--Booklist, starred review