Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now is no stranger to this blog. School librarian and blogger extraordinaire Travis Jonker and I included it on our Top 20 Children's Books of 2011 list.
No other 2011 release has been more dissected and discussed, disputed and adored than Gary D. Schmidt's return to the world of Doug Swieteck. This companion to The Wednesday Wars places "skinny-thug" Doug in a new town with no friends to speak of. Throw the turmoil of his abusive home life into the mix and you get a book where things could explode at any moment. Doug's refuge comes in the form of two new loves: drawing to match the wildlife paintings of John James Audubon, and from a girl who sees the best in him. The highs are more moving, the lows are more jarring than anything else you probably read in 2011.
I am honored Gary D. Schmidt agreed to finish my sentences about Okay for Now, reading, and writing. I wrote the words in red, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Gary!
Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer are soulmates, without knowing it—at least, at first. Theirs is the friendship that develops almost in spite of itself, and because of that, they will be fast friends all their lives. It is the kind of deep friendship that understands the other in a very deep, almost unspeakably deep way.
John James Audubon’s birds together represent the most beautiful book in the world. Not all are narrative illustrations, and in fact, one way of finishing this sentence is to say that they gave me fits, trying to pick out nine that would provide stories I could use—nine, that is, from a single volume. But to see them in the original, as Doug does, is to have one’s breath taken away.
I hope Okay for Now provides a good read. That’s the first thing a writer has to hope for, right? You want to read, in E. M. Forster’s classic determination, to want to know what happens next, to want to turn the page. I hope any novel I write does this.
Caldecott Medalist David Diaz illustrated some of the most beautiful books in the field, and he has done so in a startling variety of styles, while at the same time maintaining his own distinctive style. How many artists can say this? And for someone who is as colorblind as a dog, his illustrations provide an entrée for me into what others must see all the time.
Reading is the foundation of everything. Absolutely everything. I don’t care what venue is used—a book, a parchment, a scroll, a computer, and hand-held electronic thingy, reading is foundational for everything else. At least, everything that’s important and good and beautiful.
Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about border collies. I love to talk about border collies.
Gary D. 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.
I am giving away one copy of Okay for Now.
Rules for the Giveaway
1. It will run from 6/5 to 11:59 P.M. on 6/7.
2. You must be at least 13.
3. Please pay it forward.
Please visit Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Middle Grade Mania website to read about all the featured titles.