The Best Man by Richard Peck; Dial Books for Young Readers, 232 pages $16.99 Ages 8 to 12.
Richard Peck, winner of the Newbery Medal for “A Long Way From Chicago” and a two-time National Book Award finalist, offers a humorous, heartfelt-, wonderful novel of family, of growing up, of love and loss and what it means to be a man in the irresistible “The Best Man.” Archer Magill has plenty of role models in his life: his Grandpa Magill, his dad, his Uncle Paul. As the novel begins, Archer at age six makes quite a spectacle of himself when the white velvet pants he is supposed to wear as ringbearer split wide open before he can even deliver the ring, an embarrassing affair that begins his friendship with fellow ringbearer and vocabulary whiz Lynette Stanley. The novel follows the two through grade school, a knifepoint confrontation with a bully, years of dealing with annoying classmate Natalie, and the arrival of a substitute teacher Mr. McLeod who sets the whole town and school astir, particularly when he comes out in a speech to sixth graders who have just targeted a younger boy with an anti-gay slur. Peck paints a whole portrait gallery of charming characters, a wonderful setting in a small town near Chicago.
The Nerdy and the Dirty by B.T. Gottfried; Henry Holt, 292 pages ($17.99) Ages 14 and up.
This touching love story, of unlikely soulmates “nerdy” Benedict Pendleton and “dirty” Penelope Lupo, finding each other and learning to share and be open about their true selves for the first time, is an R-rated revelation from the author of “Forever for a Year.” Benedict is the son of a genius psychiatrist with a best-selling book who expects his son to follow in his footsteps; Penelope is the daughter of a smothering conservative Catholic mother who always fears the worst. Benedict and Penelope are classmates but virtual strangers to each other until their families decide to go to the same isolated lake resort over winter break. Benedict and Penelope alternate as narrators, and the novel is in turns romantic, explicit, funny and painful as it explores how very hard it is to be your own true self amid pressures of parental and peer expectations.
Change is in the air, and Boss Baby must get used to his demotion as “The Bossier Baby” arrives in the form of a sister, depicted in a onesie with pearls and sunglasses scowling from the open car door, all primed for a hostile takeover. Frazee uses the same language of the corporate workplace in this hilarious followup to “Boss Baby” as “The Bossier Baby” starts making her impossible demands with perks including “organic catering service” (breast-feeding), “stress management” (pacifiers at naptime), “afternoon spinning” (a baby swing), “the private limo” (a stroller resembling a luxury car). Frazee wraps up her charming tale with a perfect ending