Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

I'm picking this as a Newbery contender for 2012. Doug Swieteck has moved to a new home in "stupid" Marysville, New York. His school is stupid. His house is stupid. His neighbors are stupid. Yes, Doug has an attitude. The reader learns why as the story reveals an abusive brother and dad. When Doug meets spunky Lil Spicer he makes an unlikely friend who gets him a job at her father's grocery story and isn't afraid to give him a piece of her mind about his "stupid" attitude every now and then. Doug goes to the library that has three rare volumes of James Audubon's, Birds of America, where the librarian teaches him how to draw. Doug relates the photos of the birds to what's happening to the people he meets in the story. He has not had an easy life and he uses art to make sense of reality. He changes from someone who feels he has no self-worth to one who can draw and act. He gains confidence in who he is and changes the people around him in the process. But it isn't easy. He is wronged by his brother. Wronged by the PE teacher. Wronged by the Principal. And on and on it goes. However, each of those people redeem themselves in other ways and there is no complete villian, except the thief at the end.

There is a gaggle of trouble that follows Doug. First, he has to deal with his dad losing his job. Then he has to deal with a dad who hits him. Next, he has to deal with a brother that's a bully. Follow that with a  brother coming home seriously injured  from Vietnam. And a PE teacher who is bullying him. And a brother accused of stealing. And Audubon's book  being sold off piece by piece. ... the story just piles up layer on layer.  But eventually Doug sorts it out and everything is "okay for now."

The writing in this book is terrific - as Doug would say! Schmidt uses the words stupid and terrific throughout the story with stupid decreasing in use as Doug comes to like the town of Marysville. Terrific has two meanings such as terrific as in bad and terrific as in great.Doug is a smart-aleck kid who is good at heart. Oftentimes I don't like first person narration because of the limited viewpoint but Doug describes the people around him in such a way that gives a sense of what the people in the town are like. The only negative is that the plot is unbelieveable. But it is such a wonderful read that it is easy to suspend disbelief and get lost in the story.

Reading Level 4.3 (I don't agree with this. I think it should be higher.)
:-) :-) :-) :-) 4.75 out of 5 Smileys

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