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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Be careful what you say about authors – especially Richard Peck!

Seeing Betsy Bird’s comments today and her story about hearing Richard Peck for the first time made me reflect about my meeting him. One year at AASL Annual Conference in Birmingham, Alabama, I was touring the exhibit hall and spent some time wishing I had funds for audiobooks. While I was standing in one of the audiobooks booths, I suddenly spied the recording for A Long Way From Chicago. I began raving about that book to the poor vendor. I’m sure he wasn’t prepared for me to wax on as eloquently (okay, maybe just as enthusiastically) as I did. 

I told the vendor what a difference A Long Way From Chicago had made in my students’ lives and in the teachers who dared read it as a substitute for their old lists of read-alouds. I chatted about how my (ex) husband had A Long Way from Chicagoread this to his alternative school students and how they couldn’t wait for their chapter daily. Alan Chiupka told me, "Grandma Dowdel is one of the seminal characters in young people’s literature and should be as iconic as The Cat in The Hat."

Suddenly a voice over my shoulder said, "I rather like that book, too." When I turned to look, I was in shock to see it was Mr. Richard Peck himself. He’d overheard me make a blithering idiot out of myself! 

He was charm incarnate that night and put me at ease quickly. Before the evening was over the vendor gave me the audiobook which Richard Peck graciously autographed for me. I called Alan and raved about Mr. Peck. We had quite a battle over possession of the audiobook, but it did end up in my collection at Hickman Elementary. When I moved to JFK, I seriously thought about transferring the title with me. Fortunately they own their own copy (just not autographed).

A Year Down YonderWould you believe the following ALA conference I visited the Random House booth and encountered Mr. Peck again? By that time I felt we were best buddies and I could actually make intelligent conversation. I was so excited to get A Year Fair WeatherDown Yonder at that event. Of course I followed up with Fair Weather on audio. I have even caught my middle school assistant working at her desk listening to A Long Way from Chicago repeatedly and chuckling.

Now I cannot wait to get my hands on the newest Grandma Dowdel book A Season of Gifts. Thanks, Betsy for the heads up. Looks like book, audio CD, and audio download will all be available September 22, 2009. Guess what I’ll be listening to all day?

UPDATE: I called New York to track down someone who could tell me the exact release date and learned that A Season of Gifts will be out September 15th -17th a week earlier than the audiobooks. Hooray! I love reading these first and hearing Grandma Dowdel in my own head first.


  1. teacherninja says:

    Love love love Grandma Dowdel! Can’t wait for this one either…

  2. I had the honor of being escort for Mr. Peck when he was in Arizona for the Tucson Festival of Books in March. What a gracious man! He offered to spend a day with the children at our school, had lunch with our library volunteer, showed us the mock-ups for A Season of Gifts cover, spoke with our middle school students, and held them enthralled for over an hour! He then spent a weekend charming Tucsonians with stories and readings, graciously signing every book put in front of him-even the 80 or so one man piled in front of him during his break! He was one of my heroes before, but now, I’ll sing his praises every chance I get.