The SCBWI is saddened to report the passing of Richard Peck. He was 84 and had been battling cancer.
Mr. Peck was one of the giants of contemporary children’s literature. Among his many awards was the Newbery Medal in 2001 for A Year Down Yonder, a Newbery Honor in 1999 for A Long Way from Chicago, and in 2002 a National Humanities Medal presented to him by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, the first ever awarded to a children’s book author. Attached is an obituary summarizing his life achievements, written by his sister, Cheryl.
Richard’s novels and themes continued to be relevant and heart-felt throughout his long career which produced over 40 books. His most recent title, The Best Man, which was the winner of a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Honor, is the story of a gay marriage, and extols love in all its glorious diversity. Lin Oliver, Executive Director of SCBWI, to whom this book is dedicated, said, “Richard Peck’s work speaks to the highest human values, showing children examples of how to be a human being with honor, dignity, compassion and love—values he not only wrote about but lived in his own life. I will miss him dearly. He believed in the power of words to make the world a better place, and his words did just that.”
Beyond generous, Richard delivered memorable talks at countless SCBWI regional and national conferences. In sharing his story he served as a mentor to generations of children’s book authors. Those who did not have the privilege of hearing him speak were mentored by reading and studying his novels, learning from the tightly structured plots, the memorable characters, and the ever present precise language. A memorable interview he did with Lin is a master class on writing for children, and is available on DVD HERE through the SCBWI website. (A short clip is available on YouTube.)
Those who benefited the most from his books were his readers, children who were not only well entertained, but came away, whether they realized it or not, with a better understanding of both the adults and the children with whom they shared this planet.
Author, humanitarian, friend.
The SCBWI joins the wider children’s book community in mourning his passing.