The Best Man

Newbery Medalist Richard Peck (A Year Down Yonder) says he wanted to bring the news of same-sex marriage to middle-grade readers, because "the standardized test and textbook haven't caught up," but if this were his goal for The Best Man, one would hardly know it because he takes his sweet time (and it is sweet time) getting there. Peck's wandering, anecdote-rich narrative is set in Chicago, and told in the dryly funny voice of an immensely likable, if slightly oblivious boy named Archer Magill.

This story (which Archer calls a "Tale of Two Weddings") opens with a "train wreck" of a wedding in which six-year-old Archer's tight velvet shorts split open as he's hiding under his grandparents' porch, trying to dodge his duties as ring bearer: "Boys aren't too interested in weddings," he explains. Time jumps forward to Archer in the fifth grade, and his four man-heroes are gradually introduced: his grandfather, his dad, his Uncle Paul and Westside Elementary's first male teacher, Mr. McLeod, "a blue-eyed National Guardsman." As Archer's childhood friend Lynette Stanley points out, "you really have to spell things out" for Archer, so he doesn't catch on that two of these men are gay. Once he knows, the boy wonders if he might be gay, too. Archer asks, "Uncle Paul, do you think I might be gay?" " 'I don't know,' he said. 'Do you moisturize?' "

As promised, The Best Man closes with a second porch wedding, this time between Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod. Love abounds in this modern-day delight with a satisfyingly old-fashioned feel. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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