Beck
Beck

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Annotation: Beck, an orphan from England who is dumped in the New World by an uncaring system, navigates the Great Depression while struggling to overcome the agonies of his childhood.
Catalog Number: #138243
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2017
Edition Date: 2017
Pages: 261 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-7636-7842-2 Perma-Bound: 0-605-97098-X
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-7636-7842-5 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-97098-4
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017933647
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
After a traumatic childhood spent in orphanages, Beck, born in Liverpool to a poor British mother and an African sailor, has learned to stay quiet, preferring a solitary life on the road, safe from the vulnerability of love. Peet's posthumous novel, completed by Rosoff, follows Beck from his meager beginnings in early twentieth-century England to his harrowing first days in Canada to his peripatetic path leading him ultimately to Grace, a half Siksika woman reinvigorating her Native community in Alberta. While this often reads like a series of loosely linked vignettes rather than a complete, unified narrative, there are flashes of arresting lyricism: "Little flames, quick as lizards, ran up its black and riven trunk." At the same time, that language can be unsparingly frank: Peet and Rosoff do not sanitize racial slurs, and the description of Beck's sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of priests is graphic. However, older teens and adults who appreciate literary historical fiction might find plenty to appreciate in this story of a hard-won discovery of redemption and home.
Horn Book
In early-twentieth-century Liverpool, biracial orphan Beck is sent to Canada as free farm labor. The novel follows him on a hardship-filled journey (including being raped by a priest and abused by a racist farm couple) until he meets half-Siksika, half-Scottish Grace, whose story merges with his. The vibrancy, earthiness, and originality of the prose is startling. (A note explains that Rosoff finished the novel after Peet's death). Bib.
Publishers Weekly
A gritty and inspiring survival story, Peet-s final novel, completed by Rosoff after his death, has the stoic quality and soul of a Steinbeck tale. Set in the 1920s and early -30s, it traces the saga of Beck, a British youth born out of a tryst between his destitute mother and a visiting sailor from West Africa. After Beck-s mother dies just before his 11th birthday, he is brought to a -dire and loveless- orphanage. From there, he is shipped to Canada, where he-s subjected to severe sexual abuse in an establishment run by the Christian Brotherhood, then sent to a farm where he is put in charge of livestock. Tired of being underfed and overworked, Beck runs off: his arduous travels coincide with an inner journey to understand where he fits in, and the kindnesses shown by bootleggers and an older woman of mixed Scottish and Siksika heritage lead him to draw conflicting conclusions about the world and its inhabitants. Harrowing but hopeful, it-s a memorable portrait of a boy struggling to love, be loved, and find his way against overwhelming odds. Ages 16-up. (Apr.)

School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 9 Up&12;This final novel from the deceased Peet, completed by Rosoff, is a not-quite-YA, not-quite-adult historical fiction story of hardship after hardship. Beck is a Liverpudlian orphan, the son of a white prostitute and an African sailor. Through no choice of his own, Beck is shipped off to Canada with several other orphans to work with the Catholic Brothers. After enduring physical and sexual abuse, Beck is sent to work on a family farm, then begins bootlegging whiskey among Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, and eventually ends up on the ranch of a half Blackfoot woman named Grace. There is also a blind old wise Blackfoot woman (Grandma of Grace), who might feel like a familiar trope to some. There is a clear attempt to provide historical info from the Blackfoot perspective, and the Blackfoot characters are well-rounded. Readers are slowly and steadily taken through this bleak but beautifully written tale about surviving and finally finding grace. The book itself is incredibly ambitious, as was Rosoff's task of finishing it. Beck is a passive character in his own life, but in the moments when he pushes himself to take action, readers will finally get some satisfaction. A heartbreaking, painful work that gives hope to the restorative power of true human connection. VERDICT Purchase where adult titles circulate well and the authors are popular.&12;Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Beck escapes institutional violence and discrimination and mends his spirit through lonely travels across the 1920s Canadian prairie.Biracial (black/white) Liverpudlian Beck is ushered into institutional orphanage care at age 11, eventually ending up at the Christian Brotherhood charity home in Montreal. The Brothers' intense involvement in the new boys' hygiene immediately raises red flags about sexual abuse, and when the white men nickname Beck Chocolat, horrified readers will understand that Beck's victimhood is nearly assured. This dread heightens the brutality of his final night in the orphanage, imprinting itself on Beck's and readers' psyches alike. The next morning Beck is sent off to become free labor for a racist, white, rural agricultural family. Anger and cynicism fuel Beck's escape, and he aimlessly wanders, barely surviving. Life improves when a sympathetic African-American couple living near Detroit essentially adopts Beck, now 16, until the trio's involvement in smuggling results in tragedy. Vowing to avoid further emotional entanglement, Beck sets out on foot across the Canadian prairie, heading west. But fetching up on half-Scottish, half-Siksika Grace McAllister's land offers different opportunities, if Beck is willing to accept them. With Rosoff working from an unfinished manuscript left behind when Peet died in 2015, the finished book is seamless. Characters' dialogue is often rendered in earthy regional dialects, while the narrative prose is brilliantly evocative and precise, producing a sweepingly epic physical and emotional journey. Heartbreaking, hopeful, and inspired. (Historical fiction. 14-adult)
Voice of Youth Advocates
Times were tough in 1907 England and Beck’s mother did what she needed to do to survive. One encounter with a passing sailor resulted in Beck’s existence. He never knew his father. One month before his eleventh birthday, “his grandparents and his mother and his daft kindly uncle all died in the flu epidemic. Anne [his mother] was the last to go.” Beck is taken to a Catholic orphanage run by the brutal and vicious Sisters of Mercy. Being of mixed race, Beck is victimized by the Sisters and the other orphans. One March morning in 1922, he is transferred to the Christian Brotherhood Home for Boys; however, his tenure is short lived when he spurns the advances of one of the priests. He is unceremoniously put on a vessel bound for Canada to work on a farm, an activity totally foreign to him. His sponsors are cruel and bigoted, and, at the first opportunity, Beck escapes to wander through Canada trying to survive. Beck, started by Peet and completed by Rosoff after his death, is a marvelous tale of a boy beaten down at every turn, whose self-image is destroyed by his “protectors,” trying to find his way in the world. It is an adventure story as well as a love story, although love is a foreign concept to Beck. Readers will feel Beck’s torture, both physical and emotional; they will experience his physical hardships but also rejoice when he discovers true love. Beck will be enjoyed by Peet’s fans, as well as lovers of historical fiction and adventure.—Ed Goldberg. Beck is a brave boy who suffers through hardships, such as the death of his mother, racism, sexual abuse, and loss of guidance and support in order to get to a safe place he can call home. From England to Canada to America and back results in a seventeen-year-old Beck with little knowledge about love, particularly what loving Grace will feel like. The end result is a beautiful joining of two gracious souls. 5Q, 4P.—Shirley Yan, Teen Reviewer.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal Starred Review (Wed Mar 01 00:00:00 CST 2017)
ALA Booklist (Wed Mar 01 00:00:00 CST 2017)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Horn Book (Tue Aug 01 00:00:00 CDT 2017)
Voice of Youth Advocates
Wilson's High School Catalog
Word Count: 56,814
Reading Level: 5.4
Interest Level: 9-12
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.4 / points: 9.0 / quiz: 188891 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.2 / points:15.0 / quiz:Q70638
Lexile: 790L

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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