Friday, June 3, 2011

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Okay for Now is ostensibly a sequel to Schmidt’s delightful Wednesday Wars but it stands alone beautifully. Doug Swieteck’s Dad is such a jerk that he gives other jerks a bad name.  He drinks, hits Doug and his brothers, and loses his job and the family’s home.  Lucas, Doug’s oldest brother, troubled as a teen is now in Viet Nam.  Brother Chris, a smart mouth, hangs out with the wrong crowd.   Because of his incorrigible family, Doug is assumed to be a bad kid and he can’t make friends in the upstate New York mill town where they relocate.  

Lacking friends and fearing home, Doug visits the town library and sees an Audubon folio open to an arctic tern. The vivid nature of the tern enthralls him and the librarian encourages Doug’s interest and teaches him to draw.  Soon Doug learns the significance of the portfolio and that it’s being sold off bird by bird, page by page. 

Home life worsens as Doug’s beloved Joe Pepitone memorabilia is taken from him, brother Chris is arrested and brother Lucas comes home from Viet Nam with significant injuries.  All these problems pale when an insensitive gym teacher exposes Doug’s deepest secret.  Doug’s friend Lil and a few adults recognize the fortitude, talent and intelligence that Doug possesses and they support him as he strives to save the Audubon folio and himself.

This book is humorous enough for the most jaded boys to love and it’s smart enough for well-read adults to savor.  Even world-weary readers will shed a tear or two then cheer for Doug to overcome the obstacles facing him.   Nothing should keep this from winning the Newbury Award as best children’s book this year.  Book clubs that loved discussing The Book Thief or The Giver will want to add this to their lists.

Summing it Up: Buy this for boys ages ten to fourteen and make sure you read it yourself.   It’s sure to be an award winner and a classic. The characters in this affirming novel will stay with you for a long time.

Rating: 5 stars    
Category: Fiction, Diet Coke and Gummi Bears,  Peanut Butter and Jelly, Book Club

Publication date: April 5, 2011                             

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