- ISBN-13: 9780803738393
- ISBN-10: 0803738390
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publish Date: September 2016
- Page Count: 240
- Reading Level: Ages 9-12
- Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.8 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-05-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Markedly more contemporary than many of Peck’s previous novels, this drolly narrated coming-of-age story traces milestones in Archer Magill’s life from first to sixth grade while deftly addressing a variety of social issues. The first scene—depicting a “train wreck” of a wedding in which six-year-old Archer performs ring bearer duties in a pair of muddy, too-tight shorts that have split open in the back—sets the stage for other hilarious mishaps. Whenever Archer flounders, there are people (usually the influential men he “wanted to be”) ready to help: his father, as good at fixing problems as he is at restoring vintage cars; his stylish Uncle Paul; and his dignified grandfather Magill. In fifth grade, Archer finds he can depend on someone new: his student-teacher Mr. McLeod, who accidentally causes a lockdown when he shows up at school in his National Guard uniform. Archer gains some wisdom on his own (after befriending a visiting student from England, he concludes: “We thought he was weird. He thought we were weird. It was great. It was what multiculturalism ought to be”), but the most profound lessons about prejudice, conflict resolution, and gay rights are taught by his mentors, all-too-human heroes, whom readers will come to admire as much as Archer does. It’s an indelible portrait of what it looks like to grow up in an age of viral videos and media frenzies, undergirded by the same powerful sense of family that characterizes so much of Peck’s work. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)
Growing up when love is love
BookPage Children's Top Pick, October 2016
“A Tale of Two Weddings” would be an apt, more Dickensian title for Archer Magill’s story. At the first wedding, when Archer was 6, his performance as the ring bearer didn’t go so well. He split his too-tight dress pants (with no underwear underneath) and walked down the aisle, bare bottom exposed for the world (and YouTube) to see. In fifth grade, Warrant Officer Ed McLeod arrives during a school lockdown complete with helicopters to be the new student teacher in Archer’s class. The 26-year-old’s dramatic arrival and movie-star looks soon make him “the most famous student teacher in the Twitterverse and the photosphere.” He becomes a heartthrob to the girls and gets marriage proposals from as far away as North Korea. Turns out, though, that Mr. McLeod is gay and attracted to Archer’s beloved Uncle Paul, and Archer is to be the best man at their wedding. He does a splendid job this time—pants intact, no butts about it.
Author Richard Peck relates the years between the weddings with his signature humor, using the intimacy of the first-person point of view to provide Archer’s take on his world—sometimes clueless, always earnest—as he grows up and seeks role models. Peck began this book in 2014, when same-sex marriage became legal in Illinois (where the novel takes place), and by the time he finished, same-sex marriage was the law of the land. “But have the youngest readers among us heard?” he wondered. So he wrote this endearing, full-of-life story “to spark discussion and to open a door to a world suddenly living in a whole different era.” By the end of the story, count Uncle Paul and Ed McLeod, now happily married, as two of Archer’s role models.