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The best man

New York, NY : Dial Books for Young Readers, [2016]
Physical Description:
232 pages ; 22 cm
"Archer has four important role models in his life--his dad, his grandfather, his uncle Paul, and his favorite teacher, Mr. McLeod. When Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod get married, Archer's sixth-grade year becomes one he'll never forget"-- Provided by publisher.

Archer Magill has spent a lively, funny five years of elementary school on the lookout for role models. Three of the best are in his own family: his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great car remodeler; and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth: Mr. McLeod, a truly great teacher. And one who becomes a bit of a celebrity - along with his army dog, Argus. But now here comes middle school, and a whole lot of change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does! He doesn't see too far ahead (even though he's always watching), and so he regularly seems to be taken by surprise. Then a really big surprise when he's the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story. In pages that ripple with laughter, there are a few tears as well. And plenty of insights about the bewildering world of adults, made by a boy on his way to becoming the best man he can be. -- from dust jacket.
Reading Level:
Middle School.

540 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader 4.1.

Reading Counts! 3.2.

A/R 4.1 6.0 points.

Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.1 6 184177.

Accelerated Reader/Renaissance Learning MG 4.1 6.0 184177.
Electronic Access:
Book Trailer


Call Number
J Peck, R.

On Order



Newbery Medalist Richard Peck tells a story of small-town life, gay marriage, and everyday heroes in this novel for fans of Gary Schmidt and Jack Gantos.

Archer Magill has spent a lively five years of grade school with one eye out in search of grown-up role models. Three of the best are his grandpa, the great architect; his dad, the great vintage car customizer,; and his uncle Paul, who is just plain great. These are the three he wants to be. Along the way he finds a fourth--Mr. McLeod, a teacher. In fact, the first male teacher in the history of the school.

But now here comes middle school and puberty. Change. Archer wonders how much change has to happen before his voice does. He doesn't see too far ahead, so every day or so a startling revelation breaks over him. Then a really big one when he's the best man at the wedding of two of his role models. But that gets ahead of the story.

In pages that ripple with laughter, there's a teardrop here and there. And more than a few insights about the bewildering world of adults, made by a boy on his way to being the best man he can be.

Author Notes

Richard Peck was born in Decatur, Illinois on April 5, 1934. He received a bachelor's degree in English literature from DePauw University in 1956. After graduation, he served two years in the U.S. Army in Germany, where he worked as a chaplain's assistant writing sermons and completing paperwork. He received a master's degree in English from Southern Illinois University in 1959. He taught high school English in Illinois and New York City.

He stopped teaching in 1971 to write a novel. His first book, Don't Look and It Won't Hurt, was published in 1972 and was adapted as the 1992 film Gas Food Lodging. He wrote more than 40 books for both adults and young adults including Amanda/Miranda, Those Summer Girls I Never Met, The River Between Us, A Long Way from Chicago, A Season of Gifts, The Teacher's Funeral, Fair Weather, Here Lies the Librarian, On the Wings of Heroes, and The Best Man. A Year down Yonder won the Newbery Medal in 2001 and Are You in the House Alone? won an Edgar Award. The Ghost Belonged to Me was adapted into the film Child of Glass. He received the MAE Award in 1990 and the National Humanities Medal in 2002. He died following a long battle with cancer on May 23, 2018 at the age of 84.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-6-The latest from Newbery Medal-winning author Peck takes on important and timely topics-marriage, sexuality, manhood, nontraditional families-and alchemizes them into an affecting story full of warmth, acceptance, and understanding. Sixth grader Archer Magill narrates what he calls "A Tale of Two Weddings." At the first, "a train wreck" of an event, Archer, age six, was the ring bearer and met his best friend; at the second, he is promoted to best man for his uncle and his new husband. Between weddings, Archer absorbs life lessons from his heroes: his architect grandfather, his car restoration specialist father, his favorite uncle Paul, and the new teacher Mr. McLeod, who is the first guy teacher in the history of the school. Archer isn't lacking in strong female role models, either. His mother, sister, and best friend Lynnette are certainly models of strength (opinion, sass, and fortitude) times three. Michael Crouch, with his could-crack-at-any-moment, fittingly adolescent-tuned voice, is ideal as Archer's aural incarnation-equal parts excitable, thoughtful, and gentle. VERDICT With panache and charm, plus a few tears and guffaws, Peck proves (again) he's the best man to create one of this year's best reads.-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this hilarious coming-of-age story, listeners follow Archer Magill from first grade in elementary through to middle school as puberty quickly approaches. The book recounts milestones in Archer's life thus far and introduces readers to the male role models in his life, particularly his father (who restores vintage cars for a living), stylish uncle, and thoughtful grandfather. Voice actor Crouch perfectly enacts the young and curious Archer and creates fun, unique voices for the other colorful characters. His emphasis and pacing capture the story's progression and humor, much of which is rooted in Archer's precociousness. His insights and observations are mature and rendered in sophisticated language, which Crouch's youthful voice helps accentuate. Ages 9-12. A Dial hardcover. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

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 (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* 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.--Phelan, Carolyn Copyright 2016 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

IF YOU'RE UNDER the age of, say, 50 and read novels as a kid, you've probably spent some time in Richard Peck's world. When I was in elementary and middle school in the late '80s, battered Peck paperbacks littered my class libraries, often featuring teenage girls in trouble or grappling with newfound supernatural powers, as in "Ghosts I Have Been." But Peck is at heart a gentle realist, a keen observer of family dynamics who uses the soft power of understated emotion to tackle social issues (rape, teenage pregnancy, death). His latest middle-grade novel, "The Best Man," is in this vein. It's about a boy named Archer Magill and his relationships with the men in his life: his father, a classic-car buff; his straw-hat-wearing architect grandfather; his perpetually single, sharply dressed uncle Paul; and, eventually, his fifth-grade student teacher, Ed McLeod, a National Guardsman getting a master's in education. We first meet Archer as a 6-year-old ring bearer in the wedding of a family friend - "The Best Man" is bookended by two weddings - and follow him through elementary school as he navigates classroom bullies, friendships, the death of one of his beloved male role models and, finally, the marriage of two others. Simultaneously inquisitive and slightly clueless, Archer relies on the adults around him and on his self-possessed best friend, Lynette, to serve as mentors in emotional awareness. But Peck is mostly concerned with his male characters and their emotional landscapes. The men in Archer's life talk about their feelings - "How am I going to mean as much to you as my dad meant to me?" his father muses after the death of Archer's grandfather - and they each have something to teach him about how to be a man. Uncle Paul helps him handle a bully, while Mr. McLeod takes on anti-gay discrimination by coming out in front of a classroom of sixth graders. In an introductory note, Peck says he hopes "The Best Man" isn't "political." Still, there's something revolutionary about the book's approach to gayness. Archer's awareness of Paul's sexuality - and of Paul's growing bond with Mr. McLeod - unfolds at a pace that feels authentic to an 11-year-old boy trying to make sense of the world. Uncle Paul alludes to his sexuality in multiple conversations with Archer - "Everybody had a crush on Bob Showalter," Paul says about the father of Archer's classmate; "I think I had a crush on him." But Archer misses these references entirely. ("You knew I was gay, right?" his uncle asks. "Sure," Archer replies. "I guess. Not really. No.") When Archer's father takes him on a mission to persuade Paul to get serious about Mr. McLeod, Archer asks if they'll "talk it over." His father says: "No, we're guys. We'll talk about the Cubs, and cars.... But we'll make sure he sees there's a place for Ed McLeod in our family." It might all be a little too earnest, but that's O.K. In its quiet way, by normalizing a variety of flavors of gay and straight masculinity for the first generation raised in a world in which gay marriage is the law of the land, "The Best Man" is political. It will be a battered paperback in classrooms soon enough, one more reminder that no matter your gender or sexuality, love is love is love. WHITNEY JOINER is the senior features editor at Hearst Digital Media and a co-founder of The Recollectors Project, a community for people who have lost parents to AIDS.