Awarding winning children’s author Richard Peck’s newest novel, “The Best Man” is funny, poignant, easy-to-read and just plain enjoyable.
Archer Magill begins and ends “The Best Man” by participating in two weddings. At the age of six, he is tricked into being a ring bearer at the wedding of the granddaughter of a friend of his grandmother–not even someone he knew. He can’t even wear his regular clothes. Instead white velvet shorts, that are at least a size too small, and a white shirt with row after row of ruffles, is his attire for the ceremony. The reader just knows that the whole affair is going to be a disaster and his part is.
That is the reader’s introduction to Archer Magill and his family. They live outside of Chicago. His mom is a marriage counselor, Archer thought she was a wedding planner, his dad remodels cars, his sister is a teenager and his Uncle Paul, his mom’s brother, is just the coolest guy ever. Archer’s grandparents live close by, and Archer has an exceptionally close relationship with his grandpa.
When we meet Archer he is going into the first grade. When the story ends he is finishing sixth grade. In between those years, Archer gets bullied by a classmate, becomes the best friend to Lynette Stanley, moves unexpectedly into middle school, meets Hilary Evelyn Calthorpe, sort of a exchange student from England, and has Ed McLeod as his fifth grade student teacher.
Although women play an important part in Archer’s life, it is four men–his dad, his grandpa, and his Uncle Paul and Ed McLeod, both of whom are gay, who shape his ideas and influence him the most.
The story begins with a wedding and ends with Uncle Paul and Ed getting married. Archer is the best man, but there are many best men in this story.
Both boys and girls, grades four and up would enjoy this story and definitely identify with Archer Magill. The fact that two of the main characters, his role models, are gay makes this a very contemporary story that offer many insights to young readers.