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The Best Man
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Best Man is about a boy's journey into the middle school years and the male role models in his life. Archer Magill humorously narrates his life in elementary school: the ups and downs, the turning points, and life with his family, especially his dad, his uncle, and his grandpa. He learns some life lessons and discovers that maturing is about more than growing taller and getting a deeper voice. Even though the tone is light, the book touches on important topics such as friendships, love, death, same-sex marriage, and bullying. There are a few scenes of violence, but nothing graphic. The content is tame overall, with no swearing, drinking, or drug use. Archer's friendship with Lynette could spark discussion about how boys and girls navigate friendships with each other.
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What's the story?
Archer Magill's narration of his grade school life in THE BEST MAN starts and ends with weddings, the first being a hilarious story of his ill-fated turn as a ring bearer, the second a poignant family wedding in which he understands so much more about life and love. Over the course of the book, Archer inches toward puberty, enduring the sometimes confusing and exasperating world of his schoolmates and teachers. And as confusing as childhood and approaching puberty are for Archer, adulthood is totally baffling. Why can't adults just say what they mean? Fortunately he has his dad, grandpa, and uncle Paul around to help him figure things out. All three are completely different from one another, but each has a sweet and special relationship with Archer. When Mr. McLeod -- the first male teacher at his elementary school -- comes into his life, he gains another role model and starts to look at the world from a slightly more grown-up point of view. He also comes to understand marriage, including same-sex marriage for a gay relative. This book is a sweet and funny look into the brain of a maturing boy who's trying to figure out the world around him.
Is it any good?
Archer Magill is a funny, sweet narrator who hilariously conveys how confusing life can be for kids. The Best Man deftly deals with important topics such as loss of a loved one, bullying, and same-sex marriage without being heavy-handed. This humorous, light touch will resonate with kids for this reason, and it will appeal to parents who can discuss these topics with their kids. Some of the situations that crop up in the book are over the top, and some of the side characters fall into clichés -- for example, the thuggish bully, the prissy know-it-all, and the bumbling teacher. Fortunately, all the main characters are well-developed, interesting, and engaging.
Archer's journey from first grade through sixth and the situations he encounters are fun to follow. He goes from not understanding what's going on around him to eventually keying in on conversations and social nuances. It is nice to see a book show this aspect of maturing into a young adult. Much of the book centers on Archer's relationships with his male role models. They all bring something different to his life and help him grow into a good young man. The story is funny, poignant, and heartwarming. It'll give younger readers a lot to think about while also entertaining them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the friendship between a boy and girl in The Best Man. How are boy-girl friendships usually portrayed in books and movies? Do you think it's a big deal for boys and girls to be friends in grade school? Why, or why not?
In The Best Man, Archer often doesn't pick up on things that happen around him and needs situations spelled out for him. Do you think this is typical of kids between are 5 and 12? Have you ever had one of those moments when you finally understand things that grown-ups around you are talking about?
Do you have any role models in your life? What about these people makes you admire and want to be like them?
- Author: Richard Peck
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Dial Books
- Publication date: September 20, 2016
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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