Richard Peck is a Midwestern success story. Born and reared in Decatur, Illinois, he became a teacher but eventually quit his job to become a writer. But Peck could never fully leave the classroom. So now he reaches his students by writing books for them. Peck has an elegant way of creating quirky characters and historically accurate settings, and weaves them into a magical and extraordinary story. His 2001 Newbery winning book, A YEAR DOWN YONDER, is a Depression era novel about fifteen-year-old Mary Alice, who is sent by train from Chicago to live in the country with her feisty Grandma Dowdel. Peck now lives in New York City, but enjoys traveling the globe to meet teachers, librarians, students, and readers of all ages.