FEATURE BOOK OF THE WEEK
Midwesterner Gary D. Schmidt won Newbery Honor awards for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boys and The Wednesday Wars, two coming-of-age novels about unlikely friends finding a bond. Okay For Now, his latest novel, explores another seemingly improbable alliance, this one between new outsider in town Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer, the savvy spitfire daughter of his deli owner boss. With her challenging assistance, Doug discovers new sides of himself. Along the way, he also readjusts his relationship with his abusive father, his school peers, and his older brother, a newly returned war victim of Vietnam.
Author Post by Gary Schmidt
Thanks for reading Okay for Now. This book began in the public library of Flint, Michigan--Flint being America's most violent--because there are no jobs there, and where there are no jobs there is despair, and where there is despair there can be violence. But in the middle of that is this noble and wonderful library, where writers come to meet kids. And I was there one day and stumbled upon a glass case. In that glass case was a huge book: John James Audubon's Birds of America. It is the world's most beautiful book--you can look it up online and see why. The book in this glass case was not a first edition--which would have been worth about, oh, fourteen million dollars. But it was a later edition that was beautiful, and very valuable. And I asked them why they didn't sell it to raise money for an underfunded library. They said that they knew that things would someday get better in Flint, and they wanted this book to be there for the next generation.
These librarians should be in Congress. That's nobility.
So, that got me thinking. Audubons are regularly destroyed when people take each page out and sell it independently. (There are only 118 copies of the first edition left in the world because of this.) Suppose there was a kid who came upon this book in his library, and several pages had been removed to sell. Suppose he wanted to get them back, because he's a sort of beat up kid and he wants just one thing in his life that is perfect. Then suppose he decides, really decides to go after the pages--but he has no resources to do this. And that's how the book began--a kid trying to make one thing in his life perfect, because nothing else is.
Doug is created after a real kid I knew in middle school, who was sort of lost and always in trouble--the kind of kiddo you do not want to be around because he's always getting in trouble, and dragging anyone near him into trouble too. I've wondered about him since--where he is, what he's doing, how he remembers middle school. This book is one story about him--made up, of course--and maybe one story about a whole lot of kids who are sort of beat up and hoping to find one thing in their lives that is whole.
This is a companion book to The Wednesday Wars--so if you've read that novel, you'll have met Doug already. Holling makes a brief cameo as well, but then Doug moves away to Marysville, and away from the world of Camillo Junior High. Here's hoping that you'll enjoy this new venture into the eighth-grade year of Doug Swieteck, as he tries to find nine pages of an original Audubon, as the country tries to set a man on the moon, and as we gt another play!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Schmidt is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and a Newbery Honor for The Wednesday Wars. He lives with his family on a 150-year-old farm in Alto, Michigan, where he splits wood, plants gardens, writes, and feeds the wild cats that drop by. You can learn more about Gary from his website.