Okay for Now
Okay for Now
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Gary D. Schmidt
ISBN 9780547152608
Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011.
5 stars
Keywords: art audubon baseball bullies drawing friendship gary-schmidt okay-for-now stereotypes vietnam-war

Okay for Now
by Gary D. Schmidt

Gary Schmidt received a Newbery Honor for two of his books (Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars) and this one is even better. Why? Because Doug Swieteck, the unlikely eighth-grade hero, starts out as the kind of kid you’d write off if you were in his class and give up on if you were his teacher. Instead, Lil Spicer takes a chance on Doug and helps him get a job in her father’s deli, and not one but three adults reach out to him. The first is Mr. Powell, who sees Doug staring at a picture of The Arctic Tern in the Audubon book on exhibit in a glass case at the Marysville Free Public Library. Doug thinks, “This bird was falling and there wasn’t a single thing in the world that cared at all. It was the most terrifying picture I had ever seen. The most beautiful.”

Mr. Powell teaches Doug to draw by sketching the Audubon drawings, one after another. When Doug learns that the library is raising money by selling off the Audubon illustrations, one by one, he starts a mission to reunite them. “When you find something that’s whole, you do what you can to keep it that way,” he says. His statement comes to mean more than keeping the book whole, it also applies to his family when his brother comes home from Vietnam, and to Doug himself. Because of the cruelty Doug’s father shows him, this novel is skewed more to the 10-year-old end of the audience than the eight-year-old end. Your child—boy or girl—will respond to these living, breathing, complicated characters. Doug demonstrates that it’s possible to admire beautiful artwork and ace his baseball stats. He can love his mother’s smile and stand up to his father. This bittersweet novel will make your child think about whether there’s more to that class bully or the quiet kid in the corner than they may see on the surface.

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