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Joel Tallman, 9 July 2003
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Newbery-Winning Author
Richard Peck

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Richard Peck

"I believe I have one theme in all of my books and I want to get it across to all my readers every time and that is this: You will never begin to grow up until you declare your independence from your peers."

Newbery Award-winning author Richard Peck has written a range of books for young adults. He has written thought-provoking stories dealing with such social issues as death, suicide, rape, and censorship. Yet, he has also written heartwarming and humorous stories, such as his Newbery-Honor-winning A Long Way From Chicago and the Newbery-Medal-winning A Year Down Yonder. In addition, he has written a popular series of books about Blossom Culp, who has the gift of second sight, and is contacted by ghosts from through the centuries.

"I get ideas for my stories in schools where I go to visit. Some kid, somewhere, always tells me what my next book is going to be about. And some teacher tells me about something that is going on with young people in that community that nobody else knows and that no parent would dare to know."

His books have received or been finalists for the Newbery, the National Book Award, ALA Notable Books, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award (created to honor an author whose work has been taken to heart by young adults over a period of years, providing an "authentic voice that continues to illuminate their experiences and emotions, giving insight into their lives.")

"For inspiration, I now travel about sixty thousand miles a year, on the trail of the young. Now, I never start a novel until some young reader, somewhere, gives me the necessary nudge."

Mr. Peck is famous for his good humor, his dedication to reading and his readers, and for being stubbornly against technology--he types his books on an old-fashioned typewriter, and has no intention of ever owning a computer. Yet, even though he resists computerization, he has written two popular books featuring technology, Lost in Cyberspace and its sequel, The Great Interactive Dream Machine.

"I want to write novels that ask honest questions about serious issues. A novel is never an answer; it's always a question."

He values independence and independent thinking, separating oneself from the crowd, learning to discover who you really are--and standing up for it. In addition, Richard Peck values reading itself, and writing itself, as paths to that self-discovery.

"What started me on a career as a writer? A mother who read to me before I could read, and teachers who never put a grade on a rough draft."

Richard Peck is originally from Decatur, Illinois, in the United States. He has used his home town in fictional ways in many of his books. Yet, the characters and settings of his novels have a universal appeal.

"On a good day, a very good day, I receive a letter from some young reader in a town where I've never been, asking, 'How do you know me? Do you live around here?' I try to."

Mr. Peck became a professional writer fairly late in life. He did not write his first line of fiction until he was thirty-seven. That day, he traded his job as a teacher for the risks and rewards of being a full-time writer. "But," he says, "I was born listening--eavesdropping, if you like."

"Why do I feel it is important to impress upon young readers their right to freedom of speech? Because so many of them don't know that they have freedom of speech. I'm not sure their peer group leaders give them freedom of speech. And I do know that the school library of the school they attend is under heavier attack than the public library just down the street. I think they are in the thick of the battle and many of them are not aware of it."

Whether as a passionate defender of his readers' intelligence and desire for a good story, or as an advocate for the simple pleasures of reading and writing, Richard Peck has made outstanding contributions to young adult literature.

"My advice for children who want to write is, you can start right now."

Below are some links to information on the Web about Richard Peck. Also, there are some links to click on if you'd like to purchase one or more of his books.

"I caught my first glimpses of the world and the future in books. Here in some other century I hope young readers still do."

Web Sites with information about Richard Peck:
Buy Richard Peck's books from
(Click on any book, and you'll get a list of even more at Amazon.)

Fair Weather:
A Novel
The Ghost Belonged to Me
Lost in Cyberspace
The Dreadful Future
of Blossom Culp
Ghosts I Have Been

Or try

A Year Down Yonder
A Long Way from Chicago
The Great Interactive
Dream Machine

I read because one life isn't enough, and in the page of a book I can be anybody;
I read because the words that build the story become mine, to build my life;
I read not for happy endings but for new beginnings; I'm just beginning myself, and I wouldn't mind a map;
I read because I have friends who don't, and young though they are, they're beginning to run out of material;
I read because every journey begins at the library, and it's time for me to start packing;
I read because one of these days I'm going to get out of this town, and I'm going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.
--Richard Peck

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