The Last Safe Place on Earth

The Last Safe Place on Earth

by Richard Peck

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Todd, 15, thinks life in the quality community of Walden Woods is perfect, until Laurel, his dream girl, comes to babysit for his sister and reveals the forces of fundamentalism and censorship at work in the town.

A provocative new novel by a highly honored author that speaks to today's issues of censorship and fundamentalism.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440220077
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 12/13/2005
Pages: 176
Product dimensions: 4.14(w) x 4.32(h) x 0.48(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Born in Decatur, IIlinois, Richard Peck has written over 18 novels for young readers. He is the winner of the 1990 Margaret A. Edwards Award, a prestigious award sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association in cooperation with School Library Journal; the 1990 National Council of Teachers of English/ALAN Award for outstanding contributions to young adult literature; and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award.

Peck says, "I want to write novels that ask honest questions about serious issues. A novel is never an answer; it's always a question." In The Last Safe Place on Earth, Peck deals with the serious issue of censorship, and young readers will have many questions long after the close the book.

Read an Excerpt

The lunchtime rumor was about who was driving the van when Tara Lawrence was killed.  The driver was either Colleen Florio, Steve Inge, or Boomer Holmberg. There was talk about raising funds for some kind of memorial to Tara, but people didn't think anything would come of it She hadn't been in Fortnightly or anything.

Pace Cunningham's Mercury Capri came up, too, but nobody had a theory about who'd hot-wired it off our front curb.  The insurance covered the damage anyway.

They'd upgraded the lunchroom with a salad bar that C.E.  and I avoided.  The two of us took our trays back, and C.E.  was doing his duck walk through the cafeteria chaos.  Then he looked down at a girl finishing her lunch at the end of a table.  "Hey, Laurel.  What it is."

Laurel was sitting there.  "Hi, C.E.," she said.

Here's Laurel having lunch by herself two tables over from where C.E.  and I have been scarfing down mystery lasagne, mashed potatoes, a full sack of Doritos, and raspberry seltzer.  All this time Laurel was there, but I can't see the forest for the trees, or maybe the other way around.  The point is, C.E.  knows her.

The cat had my tongue.  Besides, the bell was ringing, and it was biology.  But out in the hall I was practically wringing my hands.  "C.E., how do you know Laurel Kellerman?"

"She's in my math class.  How do you?"

Laurel was this fantasy I hadn't happened to mention to him.  "She baby-sits Marnie.  Butwait a rninute.  What do you mean you know her from math class? You mean Math for Daily Living?"

But what was I going to say--that Math for Knuckleheads was about right for C.E., but too dumb for Laurel?

"Yep." He found his locker on the first try and spun the combination.  "We're doing fractions or something.  She's in my English class too.  We're doing Julius Caesar.

"C.E., we did Julius Caesar last year at Ridpath."

"We did? I might have been absent that day."

Like we did Julius Caesar in a day.  Besides, C.E.  was never absent, another one of his peculiarities.

I think I could be in love with this girl, I didn't say to him.  This is the most incredible girl I've ever met.  She's totally unique.  She doesn't even pierce her ears.  She's cool as college, but she's also like a wounded doe or something.  And I have this urge to fly away with her to the moon, or at least to some school-related event in a non-dating situation.  It could be my hormones, but I think it's love.  I didn't say any of this to C.E.  He gazed up at me, though, with interest.

We didn't have swim practice that afternoon, but I'd have cut anyway, just to make sure I didn't miss Laurel.  I'd forgotten about the pumpkin vandals.  When I got home the front lawn was still a disaster area.  The volleyball ghost had lost its pillowcase, which had blown around a tree.  Still, I went inside first to check on Laurel, and Marnie of course.   But they weren't there yet.  Marnie stayed at grade school until Laurel could walk her home from there.

I went for some of Dad's leaf bags, and when I got back, they were there at the edge of the yard, hand in hand.  Marnie looked really serious, and I thought she was probably upset by somebody trashing the decorations.

"What happened?" Laurel asked.

"Creeps.  Early Halloweeners.  In the olden days they turned over out-houses." This was for Marnie, because she looked serious enough to cry.  She was getting those little dark places under her eyes, and her face looked pinched.

From the Hardcover edition.

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