Growing from adolescence into adulthood involves many hard lessons. Queenie Peavy, although considered an example of regional fiction, is an excellent novel for young people reaching adolescence. Through Queenie’s actions, readers are introduced to conflicts, both internal and external, often encountered in life: person against person, person against society, and person against self.
Queenie’s internal conflict involving person against person develops as she struggles with her beliefs about her father. She imagines him to be a loving, caring, and warm human being. It is this imagined father to whom she pledges her fierce loyalty, no matter what personal price she has to pay. When her father comes home, Queenie treats him as if he were a king. She chops firewood, rushes home after school, and tip-toes quietly through the house as she does the chores that she has assumed for her father while he was away in prison. The irony of this relationship is that while Mr. Peavy is the one person who hurts Queenie the most, he is also the person who helps her the most. It is when she realizes that he is not the father she wanted him to be, nor the imagined father that she created in her mind, that Queenie begins to change. Had he not come home, Queenie may never have realized how much she was hurting only herself, or at least not in time to prevent her life from being one of delinquency and reform schools, always “in the shadow of the jail.”
Burch’s inclusion of the African American Corry family as the Peavys’ closest neighbors serves a dual purpose. Queenie’s relationship...
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Queenie is a girl ahead of her time. Queenie Peavy, written during a time when juvenile delinquency was of minor concern to society, offered adolescent readers the opportunity to realize what might happen if one continued to be a juvenile delinquent. By the late twentieth century, the increase in juvenile delinquency had become a major concern in American society, especially for educators. Juvenile delinquents were being sentenced as adult offenders because of the serious nature of their crimes, and educators were being asked to teach in classrooms where these criminals were students. As a result, there was an increase in the number of books written about juvenile delinquents.
Published in 1966, Queenie Peavy was immediately recognized as a book of literary merit by a number of critics. In 1966, it received the Child Study Association of America Children’s Book Award as the best book that dealt realistically with a problem of the contemporary world. In 1967, the Jane Addams Book Award, given for books exploring the theme of brotherhood and displaying literary merit, was given to Queenie Peavy. The children of Georgia chose the book as their favorite with the Georgia’s Children’s Book Award in 1971. In 1974, it won the George G. Stone Center for Children’s Books Award. Virginia Haviland included the novel in The Best of Children’s Books (1981). Finally, in 1986, the novel earned the Phoenix Award from the Children’s Literature Association; this award recognized books of literary merit published for children twenty years before that had not received a major award. As with all classics, Queenie Peavy, a beautifully written book, has stood the test of time.