From Carnegie Medal–winning author Mal Peet comes a sweeping coming-of-age adventure, both harrowing and life-affirming.
Born of a brief encounter between a Liverpool prostitute and an African soldier in 1907, Beck finds himself orphaned as a young boy and sent overseas to the Catholic Brothers in Canada. At age fifteen he is sent to work on a farm, from which he eventually escapes. Finally in charge of his own destiny, Beck starts westward, crossing the border into America and back, all while the Great Depression rages on. What will it take for Beck to understand the agonies of his childhood and realize that love is possible?
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About the Author
Mal Peet (1947–2015) was a critically acclaimed and award-winning writer. Besides his young-adult fiction, he wrote several illustrated books for younger children with his wife, Elspeth Graham.
Meg Rosoff is the author of How I Live Now, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award. She also received the Carnegie Medal and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and was named a National Book Award Finalist. Meg Rosoff completed Mal Peet’s unfinished novel, a promise she made him before he died. She lives in London.
Mal Peet (1947–2015) is the acclaimed author of the Carnegie Medal–winning novel Tamar as well as the Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book Life: An Exploded Diagram and three Paul Faustino novels: Keeper, The Penalty, and Exposure, a winner of the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He is also the co-author of Cloud Tea Monkeys, Mysterious Traveler, and Night Sky Dragons, all of which he wrote with his wife, Elspeth Graham.
Mal Peet’s story in his own words . . .
As a child:
I grew up as a member of an emotionally impaired family on a council estate in a one-horse market town in north Norfolk. The three things that kept me sane were my bike, books, and soccer. The bike took me great distances. (Norfolk is, famously, flat, although there are hills that can sneak up on you). Books took me further away, often to islands: Treasure Island, the Coral Island, and wherever it was that the Swiss Family Robinson found themselves. I also loved comics, and originally wanted Keeper to be a graphic novel. As for soccer, by the time I was sixteen, I was playing at least three full matches a week – for my school, for my county, and for the town.
As an adult:
After university I had some lost years, like many of my peers. I tried teaching to start with. Then I quit and went on walkabout. I worked in a hospital mortuary. I worked at an abattoir; what with the heat and the carnage it was an authentic vision of Hell. I went to Devon because I liked the sound of it, and there worked on building sites. I went to Canada and worked with a road crew consisting of a variety of interesting characters, including mad Newfoundlanders and exiled Irishmen. I met a lovesick man in Ontario who wanted someone to drive with him to Vancouver, where his girlfriend was. That week-long drive across Canada was one of the best and worst things I have ever done.
As an artist:
Like many people (I suspect), I had no real interest in children’s literature until I had children of my own. It'll sound a bit evangelical, I suppose, but I truly believe that there are few things more important, useful, and protective than sharing stories with your children. After their bath, heaped into a big chair, doing the voices, discussing the pictures, softening your voice as the rhythm of their breathing deepens. . . . You start to understand why certain books work and others don't.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Liverpool 1907, Anne Beck had just been sacked from her job. On her way home Anne passed a black man stood outside the local pub, as the landlord had refused to serve him. His white shipmates had bought him a drink and a bite to eat, this is what lured her towards him. She took him home with her where they had one night of passion, and then he was gone. The result of that night of passion was born nine months later, Beck. When he was eleven years old, his mother caught the flu and subsequently died, meaning that Beck was sent to a Catholic orphanage. Over the coming years Beck was treated harrowingly. Starting off in Canada, where him and a few of his orphanage friends were sent to stay with priests until the time would come for them to find new homes. Filled with anger and mistrust, did Beck ever get out of the cycle of hardship and cruelty, to become a man who was capable of love, and a happy ending? Firstly, I need to give potential readers a warning. This book has been marked as a Young Adult book, but with graphic scenes of violence, plus emotional, and sexual abuse, I would say this book is not suitable for those under 16. Yes, it is a story true to life and these things happen, but it does leave images in your head, that even I at 39 years old I could not shift for a few days. The book does have you thinking about life and the hardships that black people endured, having been deemed second class citizens and looked down on by society. Beck himself though is a mixed bag, his story is filled with emotion, but at times the writing was a little lacking, meaning that I didn’t always connect with him. The book takes you to some dark places, and yet at times also gives you an uplift. It is thought-provoking, and tough to read in parts, but if you get the chance, I feel that this is going to be one of those books that in the future will become a modern day classic. I’m just sorry that Mal Peet didn’t live long enough to see the end result of his book. Beck was completed by his good friend, Meg Rosoff.
Ben smiled at his uncle as he gently scooped up the child and nodded. "It went great. Thank you so much, uncle Henry." He gave him a nod before heading around the house to his car. Chris gave Haddi's hand a squeeze as he followed after her. Eliot gurgled up at Ben before turning to look at Haddi and lifting his arms to her with a wide smile.