About the Book: As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.
My Two Cents: Memorable characters, beautiful writing, amazing book. Here’s the bottom line: This is probably my favorite middle grade book. Yes, #1 favorite of all time. All I have to do is see that bag-face cover and I want to laugh and cry and read the whole thing again.
Grade Level: 4-8
- Visit Gary D. Schmidt’s website.
- View more images of Audubon’s Birds of America from the National Gallery of Art.
- One of Doug’s talents is memorizing baseball trivia. Test your own baseball trivia knowledge, learn new facts, and solve baseball sudoku and crossword puzzles here.
- Learn how to play horseshoes like Doug does.
- Doug’s brother Lucas comes back from Vietnam. Find photos, video, and facts about what Vietnam is like today at the National Geographic Kids website.
- The novel Jane Eyre is important in this book. Read a quick summary ofJane Eyre for kids here.
- Doug isn’t a big fan of poetry in general and Shelley in particular, but he seems to like birds. Do you think he’d like this poem Shelley wrote about a bird?
More to Read:
- A companion novel to Okay for Now: Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars (Or maybe read this one first and see how your perception of Doug changes…)
- Another novel that features John James Audubon (this time as a character): A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
- Another book about a young boy in about the same era (with a very similar cover): Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos