One of Gary D. Schmidt’s characters from his Newbery Honor winning book, The Wednesday Wars is back. Doug Swieteck’s father has just lost his job and as a result the family must move to a small town in upstate New York. Shortly after his arrival into town, Doug meets the sassy Lil Spicer. Because of Lil’s taunt that Doug’s probably never visited a library, let alone even knows what one is, he decides to enter the local establishment. Inside he finds a collection of art: John James Audubon’s Birds of America. Doug is immediately struck by the picture, though how much of an impact Audubon’s birds will have on him, is yet to be fully understood.
When the local deli is broken into, Doug’s bully of a brother is blamed for the incident and though Doug has nothing to do with it, the reputation of his brother seems to be sticking to Doug too. Between his father staying out all night drinking with his buddy, his wounded brother coming home from Vietnam, and having to read Jane Eyre in school, Doug seems to have his hands full.
Okay for Now was wonderful. Schmidt has an amazing ability to create complex characters. He also does an amazing job taking those characters and helping them find redemption for the different weaknesses that they have. I also like how Schmidt takes things like reading classics, appreciating art, the theater, etc. and makes them seem really cool. This is something that I think all teachers try to do and Schmidt seems to be a master of it.
At the beginning of each chapter is a picture of one of Audubon’s birds. I like that these pictures are shown in the book. Doug refers to them often and what is happening to the bird in the picture parallels of what is happening in Doug’s life. This book is full of roller coaster twists and turns. One minute life seems pretty grand for Doug, the next he’s down in the dumps. But I loved the way that Schmidt was able to make bad things happen to Doug, show how it affects him, and then how Doug is able to work through different situations to come out on top again. I laughed out loud, I cried, and laughed again.
I’m not sure about how young people will like this book, but it is aimed at their age group. The adults to which I’ve recommend Schmidt’s books have liked them, a lot, which sometimes makes me wonder how they are received by young people. Schmidt’s characters are complex and maybe even a little mature for their ages.
Do you know a young person who has read Schmidt’s books? I’d love to hear what their experience was like.
- Sex: a boy and girl kiss, a boy lays next to a sick girl in a hospital bed
- Violence: some bullying at school and descriptions of fights, a drunk father hitting a son, some Vietnam fight descriptions
- Language: a few common swear words and the use of deity, some name calling from peers, a dad that says some mean things to his wife, some talking back to adults
- Adult Themes: Some references to fighting and deaths in Vietnam, Doug’s father often goes drinking with a friend, a young girl who gets very sick,