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Monday, July 8, 2013

Okay for Now by Gary d. Schmidt

Okay for Now
by Gary D. Schmidt
I'm going to start this review by admitting that I had never read anything by Schmidt before.  Another confession, I often write down interesting books that I hear about on the radio - while in the car.  I do, however, try to wait for the red light.  Okay for Now was one of these books (car shorthand: OK 4 now, I got Schmidt wrong).  When the Virginia Reader's Choice list came out for the 2013/2014 school year and Okay for Now was on it, it was the first book I ordered!
The story is of a young boy named Doug.  Many of you might have met Doug in The Wednesday Wars, but not having read any Schmidt before, this was our introduction.  Doug's life stinks.  His family has moved, his Dad is a jerk, his Mom is barely coping, his oldest brother returns damaged from Vietnam (and really, who didn't?!) and the middle brother is a delinquent. 
Doug's salvation comes in the form of Lil Spicer and John James Audubon.  I can't imagine a more unlikely pair!  This book is clever and charming.  I fell hard for Doug as I was turning the first pages!  He's a great kid, the kind that you'd take under your wing.  I saw much of my students in him, not all of him, but parts; and I feel sure student readers would relate to him as well.
The first thing that I wanted to do when I finished Okay for Now was to call Gary D. Schmidt and thank him for bringing Doug into the world.  He's a character that I won't soon forget.  It makes me want to find the time to read The Wednesday Wars, I just can't get enough.  Doug has a long, tough road ahead of him, but Schmidt does a great job of letting the reader know that he will be okay; and isn't that what we all want to know?  It will be okay, for now.
Just in case you think I'm a chump, read this:
The Yellow Shank wasn't the first thing you saw at all.  You saw his world first.  It was fall, and the grass was getting duller, and the tress were gold and that reddish brown that looks like the color of old bricks.  The Yellow Shank was walking in a sunny spot, looking like he owned the place.  The water in front of him was dark, and the woods beyond were darker still.  Really dark.  But Audubon knew something about composition: he kept the top of the bird's back as straight as the horizon, right smack in the middle of the scene, with a beak held up just as flat and just as straight, and an eye that said I know where I belong.  You couldn't help but be a little jealous of this bird.
Okay for Now is a story about how a boy figures out where he belongs.  And I thoroughly enjoyed his journey.

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