Robert Newton Peck, 92, in June (Author of A Day No Pigs Would Die)
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2020-09-21 07:11:24 UTC
Check out the photo!


Robert Newton Peck, the author of popular Young Adult novels including “A Day No Pigs Would Die” and “Soup,” died on June 23 at his apartment in the Village on the Green senior community in Longwood. He was 92.

“He just headed for the positive,” said his wife of 25 years, Sharon “Sam” Peck. “He always headed for the light. He celebrated the kind, little people in his books.”

After serving with the Army in Italy following WWII, Peck first came to Central Florida to attend Rollins College on a football scholarship. His wife said it was a mentor at the university who convinced him to study writing.

It was also at Rollins that he met his longtime friend Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Rogers served as best man in Peck’s wedding to his first wife.

Before becoming an author, Peck worked in advertising in New York. “Even up in the city, he would dress like a cowboy,” said Sam. “He’d wear a sheepskin jacket and a Stetson hat, just to set himself apart.”

Published in 1972, “A Day No Pigs Would Die” was Peck’s debut novel. The coming-of-age story follows a young Rob Peck during a crucial age with his butcher father in rural Vermont.

While the book is generally considered to be semi-autobiographical, Peck’s early life is something of a mystery. He was born in Ticonderoga, New York, and attended high school there, but he kept the details on much of his life private. “He only admitted a few years ago that he never knew his dad,” said Sam.

“I believe the part about losing the farm was true,” said Sam. “I believe a lot of what he wrote about [in terms of animal slaughter], he really saw, the brutality he witnessed.”

Some of the brutality in “A Day No Pigs Would Die” made it a regular target for banning from schools and libraries. The American Library Association listed it as No. 16 out of the 100 most challenged books in the 1990s, just ahead of “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker.

But Peck prided himself on writing books that were appropriate for children. “He used to say over and over that his books were clean,” said Sam.

Peck was a supporter of education and often spoke at conferences and colleges. He often talked about the influence of his first teacher, Miss Kelly, in a single-room schoolhouse in Vermont.

Friend and fellow writer F. Anthony D’Alessandro remembers a time that he invited Peck to speak to a class at Valencia College. “He volunteered to do it without pay,” said D’Alessandro. “He was loyal.”

D’Alessandro, who became friends with Peck in 2002, said that he was good at giving advice on improving imagery and characterization. “‘Tony,' he said, ‘readers can’t see nervous,‘” D’Alessandro recalled. “‘Instead of telling me Bill is nervous, show me Bill biting his thumb.‘”

Though he didn’t read music, Peck played piano by ear and was known as a gregarious speaker and entertainer. Even former Sentinel staffers George Diaz and Terri Winefordner, who only knew Peck from the gym, recalled how quickly he could draw people into a conversation

“He was very funny, always a delight,” said Winefordner.

“Mr. Peck certainly had the gift of gab and I enjoyed our conversations during morning workouts at the gym,” said Diaz. “Those words he spoke often translated eloquently into print.”

Peck moved permanently to Florida in the 1970s. In his career, he published more than 65 Young Adult novels. He is preceded in death by his son, Christopher, and survived by his wife, his daughter Anne and his grandson Stephen.

Peck will be interred at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.

In the “Something About the Author” series, Volume 108, published by the Gale Group, Peck gave a rundown of his conservative values. Near the end, he left some encouragement for aspiring writers, written in his homespun voice. “Sometimes it discourages an author when the novel he’s attempting to write isn’t quite ripening for harvest,” he said. “But it almost always eventually does.”

(long birthday post from 2018, with many juicy quotations of his)

2020-09-21 16:48:01 UTC
Quotations from Peck:

"Fred and I don't see eye-to-eye on anything. You name it,
we differ on it. Yet we've always been able to disagree without
becoming disagreeable. Pals forever. That is America."

"If I possess any wisdom at all, most of it was given me by a mother, father, an aunt, and a grandmother...none of whom could read or write."

"I hope (my two kids) both grow up to have a tough gut and a gentle heart. Because I don't want to sire a world of macho men or feminist women, but rather a less strident society of ladies and gentlemen.'"

"Never buy anything, including religion, from someone who telephones you. Whenever one of these pesky people call, politely ask him, or her, to hang on because there's someone knocking at your door. Five minutes later, hang up the phone."

"One tiny birth-control pill, properly used, accomplishes more to preserve our beautiful planet than ten social workers or twenty environmentalists."

"For some reason, even though I'm a jingo patriot, I just can't abide The Star Spangled Banner. 'Rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air' isn't what our Republic is all about. Besides, at ball games, hardly anyone sings it, and worse, we all stand there thoroughly bored, until it's over."

"The high point of my life would be for me to visit a high school and meet a principal who is not a former football coach."

"Not long ago, upon hearing of his death, I wept. And then sat at my piano and played all of the 'S Wonderful songs he had written..."Lady Be Good" and "Embraceable You" and "My Love Is Here to Stay." Wherever you are, Ira Gershwin, I pray there's a piano and angels to sing you the kind of delightful music you gave to us."

"Women, please learn that men are interested only in one thing. But, after you feed us, our interests may be augmented into other areas."

"My favorite conversational ploy at a stand-up cocktail party is to corner a liberal and torture it."

"As world population rises, and it is doing just that at a frightening rate, ask yourself these pivotal questions: Is the air cleaner? Fresh water more pure? Oceans more free of contaminates? Land displaying less litter? Fewer traffic jams Less road rage? Will there be fewer crimes? Will we hear less noise pollution? More habitat room for animals? Will there be fewer wars? The common solution is merely common sense. As we reduce the number of human beings, all of the above problems (plus numerous others, such as our future's twenty-digit telephone dialing) will gradually abate."

"Sometimes it discourages an author when the novel he's attempting to write isn't quite ripening for harvest. But it almost always eventually does. However, if I puff up too uppity, I just fumble into a desk drawer to retrieve a rumpled letter, written on a shabby sheet of blue-lined notebook paper. The three tiny holes are no longer round but ripped. It was mailed to me a few years ago, from a boy named Charlie.
'Hi Rob, I like your books better than literature.' "
Lenona at September 21, 2020 9:28 AM

Canadian journalist Michele Landsberg (born in 1939) wrote the book "Reading for the Love of It: Best Books for Young Readers" in 1986. In it, she gleefully panned the books of Judy Blume and Roald Dahl (for their middle-class shallowness, selfishness, cruel humor and violence). However, she made it clear she's willing to tolerate some chaff for the sake of good wheat, as she demonstrates here:

(About a Russell Hoban book) "...like it or not, this is how young males, at some point and with some aprts of their psyche, see the women who bear, raise, and teach them. The innate misogyny is well within acceptable limits...The same is generally true of another classic boy's story, the strongly written 'Soup' by Robert Newton Peck. The mother, the aunt, the school nurse, and the teacher are all the kind of narrow, sex-hating, repressed, prudish, religion-prating, dominatrixes made into a national American stereotype by Philip Wylie in the 1950s. Woman is the implacable Other in Peck's work; though the female reader may find this disturbing, the writing is good enough to convince us that this is an honest account of reality as perceived by at least one small-town boy. 'The wind was as ripe as apples, so full of fall that you could almost bite every breath,' Peck writes, and the atmosphere of tough, small-town boyhood, with its poverty and exhilaration, its cruelties and bigotries, has moments of high farce and moral insight that are relished by generation after generation of schoolchildren."

And later:

"The prose is crisp and vivid, the humor racy, unsentimental. It is, in other words, a superior book."
2020-09-22 15:04:43 UTC
He had five entries in the Something About the Author encyclopedia series, plus an entry in volume 45 of the Children's Literature Review encyclopedia series. (Which makes it all the more incredible that more than one or two of his books would be out of print!)