Robert Newton Peck Critical Essays

Introduction

Robert Newton Peck 1928–

American novelist and poet for children and young adults.

Peck's works derive their force from their effective evocation of times past. His poetry and many of his novels are set in rural Vermont, and are loosely based on his memories of his childhood spent there. A Day No Pigs Would Die, a semiautobiographical novel recounting a crucial period in a farm boy's life, became Peck's first success. He has since used his home state as the setting for a steadily popular series of novels centered on his best boyhood friend, Soup, who gets involved in every imaginable escapade available to a boy growing up in a small town during the Depression. Peck has also written several historical novels, including Fawn and Rabbits and Redcoats, both based on the battle for control of Fort Ticonderoga toward the end of the colonial era. Recently Peck has turned to burlesque with books such as Hub and Basket Case, in which characters with names like Sashay Freshmeadow or Courtney Dribble are put through a series of improbable adventures.

Many of Peck's novels illustrate the themes of the competitiveness of nature and the imminence of death by demonstrating how one boy comes to terms with them. Some critics have deplored his pessimism; it is also claimed that he creates two-dimensional characters, particularly in his generally stereotypical descriptions of women and girls. However, others find his themes and his frank exposition of them to be perceptive and refreshing. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84.)