The Best Man (audiobook)
by Richard Peck
I really enjoyed The Best Man! Richard Peck was one of my favorite authors when I was in fifth and sixth grade. I can’t say I remember all of the books I read by him, but I do remember being taken by his characters and the predicaments they found themselves in. One was about some kids who lived in an old house in the city, and there was an elevator that would take them through time and they had to rescue a ghost in the house. It was called Voices After Midnight. I’m sure there were others that I loved by him, because I remember picking up his ghost stories because I loved them so much.
This story is about a boy named Archer who is in fifth and sixth grade (it takes place over a little over a year). He has a best friend named Lynette, who has a bold personality, and they a live in a suburb where everyone seems to be familiar with each other. Archer and Lynette met at a wedding as small kids, and their friendship continues through a second wedding at the end of the book. Most of the story is navigating the tricky middle school period where people are changing physically and socially, there are bullies to face and teachers to misunderstand. Archer is an average kid who loves his family, especially his uncle, who he later finds out is gay. Archer is particularly unobservant, and is the last to realize it.
What I liked about this book is the humor and wit it teaches young readers. It is hard to find middle grade literature that is so cleverly written that it will engage adult readers enough to make them giggle, but Richard Peck was an expert in his field, and I definitely found myself laughing out loud as I listened to the story while walking the dog or driving to work. I also appreciate the way Archer’s uncle was written. Him being gay is a total nonissue throughout the story, as it should be in life. It isn’t a plot point- it’s just part of the plot. There is no homophobia, just disappointment that his partner is gay and not available to his many female fans.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I wanted Hilary to be a fake. He’s so snooty, I figured he was lying about everything, but I guess Peck wanted him to be a real person. Looking for something not to like is a real stretch, because it is a really cute story that will keep readers going from beginning to end.
The Prince and the Dressmaker (paperback)
by Jen Wang
I really enjoyed The Prince and the Dressmaker, a graphic novel about a girl who makes dresses for rich women, but isn’t able to show her true skills, until a prince hires her to make dresses for him. He doesn’t want anyone to know his secret, so he keeps his female persona a secret and flaunts Frances’s designs as a woman. He finds himself torn between his need to be who he really is, and his duty to his country and his family.
What I liked about this story is more than I can write without giving everything away. The climax will leave you giggling, and the pictures are stunning. I saw this on many Mock Caldecott lists, and I can see the merit in the illustrations. However, I also have to say that I’m thrilled there is a book about a man who wants to dress as a woman, because it is something I haven’t read in a book suitable for children. It is a complicated topic, but this story addresses the issue with likable characters who show acceptance.
There was nothing I didn’t like about this story!