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Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Okay for Now (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Gary D. Schmidt

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930899,380 (4.46)51
Title:Okay for Now
Authors:Gary D. Schmidt
Info:Clarion Books (2011), Hardcover, 368 pages
Collections:Your library

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Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (2011)


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“Okay for Now” by Gary Schmidt is a heartwarming young adult historical novel centered around eighth grader Douglas Swieteck. After Doug’s abusive father loses his job, the whole family moves to Marysville in upstate New York. In the new town, Doug’s older brother is accused of robbery, and Doug himself is struggling to be more than just a “skinny thug” that some townsfolk believe him to be. However, things start to look different when Doug befriends Lil Spicer, the daughter of Spicer’s Deli’s owner, and discovers that the local library has a rare copy of John James Audubon’s book “Birds of America.”


1) Thoughtful and moving.
“Okay for Now” is a thoughtful and surprisingly moving story about connections between people in a cozy small-town community. In a subtle, “show, don’t tell” manner, Schmidt demonstrates us the need to understand where people are coming from before writing them off as well as the importance of helping each other to overcome struggles.

2) Realistic and complex characters.
Even though there are quite a few characters in this book, they ALL are very realistic and multidimensional, and throughout the book you can clearly see them growing (or most of them, anyways).

3) The power of art.
Each chapter begins with a black-and-white print from John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” which are skillfully incorporated into the story. In the same “show, don’t tell” manner, Schmidt illustrates the power of art and creativity in dealing with bullying, violence, abuse, war scars and other struggles. Although it’s not a very novel idea, Schmidt conveys it masterfully.

4) Engaging.
“Okay for Now” is narrated from Doug’s point of view and is done so in a fun and an EXTREMELY engaging way. It truly feels like Doug is talking directly to you, asking you questions and even scolding you for not paying attention to what he is saying.

5) Uplifting.
Doug, just like any other teenage boy, occasionally lashes out and misbehaves, but essentially is a good-natured kid, and thus he views the world around him, even the most hostile situations, with a childlike innocence and optimism.


1) Ugly cover.
If possible, get the paperback edition of “Okay for Now,” because the cover of the hardcover is beyond off-putting.

2) Unrealistic ending.
The ending of the book is pleasing, but it seems a little bit too easy, too perfect and thus slightly unrealistic. However, the whole story is so well-crafted that even a lesser ending couldn’t spoil it.


“Okay for Now” by Gary Schmidt is a thoughtful, uplifting and engaging young adult novel, full of realistic and complex characters. It emphasizes the importance of understanding and connections between people as well as the power of art and creativity in overcoming hardships. It’s one of those books that even an ugly cover or a slightly unrealistic ending cannot spoil. ( )
1 vote AgneJakubauskaite | Jul 8, 2015 |
3.5/5 Stars. This book reminded me a lot of The Wonder Years in it's style. It's a cute story about love, family, abuse, war veterans. For my full review, check it out at my blog: http://brittanysbookrambles.blogspot.com/2012/12/okay-for-now.html ( )
  bpress | Apr 20, 2015 |
Absolutely a new favorite book of mine! I loved how the author was able to weave so many elements into this story of Junior High student, Doug Swieteck. Moving, an abusive father, an older brother wounded in Vietnam, a lovely romance with a smart girl, learning to read, performing on Broadway, and cancer were woven tightly to make a "terrific" coming of age story. I would recommend this to all my higher level 5th grade readers! ( )
  amrahmn | Mar 16, 2015 |
I'd read this again, I liked it so much! The way he talks about art and relates the birds to his own life was awesome. ( )
  kelleyhar | Nov 29, 2014 |
Couldn't put it down. Amazingly wonderful. ( )
  Renee.Brandon | Jul 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 89 (next | show all)
Bad-boy Doug Swieteck from The Wednesday Wars (rev. 7/07)—grudgingly respected for his bravado (he knew 410 ways to get a teacher to hate you) but feared because of his bullying older brother—is back in a stand-alone story. Readers meet Doug’s mean-spirited father, a man Doug dislikes but unconsciously emulates. When the family moves upstate after Mr. Swieteck’s temper gets him fired, Doug’s discontent mirrors his father’s. They live in a “stupid” town, in a house Doug christens “The Dump,” and people sit on stoops because there isn’t “any boring thing else to do in boring Marysville.” But what “boring” Marysville, New York, offers Doug is something unexpected: kindness and a future. He gets a part-time job; meets Lil, a sweet love interest; has teachers willing to teach him (as Schmidt gradually reveals, his need is dire); and, above all, is captivated by a book of Audubon bird prints when a caring librarian helps Doug discover a talent for composition and art appreciation. Schmidt incorporates a myriad of historical events from the 1968 setting (the moon landing, a broken brother returning from Vietnam, the My Lai massacre) that make some of the improbable plot turns (the father’s sudden redemption, for example) all the more unconvincing. Still, Doug’s story emerges through a distinctive voice that reflects how one beat-up kid can become a young man who knows that the future holds “so much for him to find.”
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Joe Pepitone once gave me his New York Yankees baseball cap.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0547152604, Hardcover)

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Gary D. Schmidt

Q: Did you always want to become a writer?

A: Nope. In high school, I wanted to go to the Naval Academy at Annapolis and become a career naval officer. Then, late in high school, I wanted to be a vet—mostly because of the James Herriot books and the PBS show, I suppose. Then, in college, I decided to become a lawyer—until my senior year, when I switched to an English major to become a teacher, which I did become. Somehow becoming a writer happened along the way.

Q: What did you read when you were a kid?

A: In my school, we were tracked—meaning that we were put into classes depending on how well we had done in testing. This happened in first grade. I had tested poorly and ended up in the pumpkin group—no kidding. We were the poorest readers, and so since I was told I wasn’t any good at this, I didn’t read much. Then I got taken up by Miss Kabakoff, who just liked me, and who brought me into her class and taught me how to read.

Once that happened, I read everything I could. The Freddy the Pig books, the Doctor Dolittle books, any Greek mythology I could get my hands on, and the Norse mythology that I liked better, the biographies in the Childhood of Famous Americans series, the tales of the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, the Herbert series and the Henry Reed series, Robinson Crusoe and The Swiss Family Robinson, Howard Pyle’s The Adventures of Robin Hood and His Merry Men, Bambi (which is a lot better than most people think it is), anything by Jack London or Jules Verne or H. G. Wells, the Horatio Hornblower books, Treasure Island, and of course the Hardy Boys series and the Tom Swift series, which I collected whenever I could.

Q: How often do you write?

A: Every day I am not teaching—so two or three days a week, and sometimes at night—unless it’s really cold out and the woodstove needs a lot of tending.

Q: How much do you write each day?

A: I work on three projects at a time, and they are all at different stages. One may be a first draft, one may be almost finished, and one might be in proofs—or perhaps just being conceived. I try to write about five hundred words a day on each project. Most American writers—Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Jack London—all wrote about five hundred words a day. It seems the right pace for me. It keeps me from going too fast at a project.

There are some children’s book writers—like Enid Blyton—who supposedly wrote ten thousand words a day. This seems impossible to me, but even if it is true, one should not judge oneself by the absurd outlier.

Q:Where do you write?

A: I have a study in a small outbuilding away from the house. It has a desk, a lamp, more books than should be in any one room, and a woodstove. I work at a typewriter, and keep lots of scrap paper around me. This means, by the way, that if anything comes out pretty awful, I can just open the woodstove and burn it all. The feeling of relief is remarkable.

On my desk are a dictionary and a thesaurus, books by Emerson and Whittier and Longfellow and Darwin, Henry David Thoreau’s journals, a collection of Churchill’s war speeches, two volumes of Shaker hymns, some Tolkien, some Avi, some Katherine Paterson, some Elie Wiesel, The Giver, and a statue of a greyhound that has been in my family for four generations.

Q:You work at a typewriter?

A: You can’t believe how hard it is to find typewriter ribbons for a 1953 Royal.

Q: Your books often are very serious. Shouldn’t you lighten up?

A: You think life in middle school isn’t serious? Are you kidding?

Living is a serious business. Funny is good, of course. We all like to laugh. But I want more than that. Much more. Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his first great book, called life "a veil of gloom and brightness." We all wish it could be brightness all the time. And maybe for some people it is. I doubt it, but maybe. But there is gloom for us all, too. And maybe books even for kids shouldn’t ignore that. Geez, read Where the Wild Things Are, or Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, or just about any Grimm folktale, or Crow Boy, or Bridge to Terabithia, or Nothing but the Truth, or No, David, or Octavian Nothing, or The Tale of Despereaux, or Stitches, or The Storm in the Barn, and then try to tell me that writers for kids should try not to be too serious.

Q: What is your favorite book that you have written?

A: Hmmm... If I give one title, then all the other books get sort of cranky and jealous, and they start to rearrange themselves loudly at night to push each other off the shelves. Then I have to pick them all up in the morning instead of walking the dogs and then the dogs get irritated and they take their sweet time on the walk so I get back home late and miss most of breakfast and the kids get to school after the bell has rung and the day just goes downhill from there.

Let’s just say they’re all my favorites.

Q:What is your favorite book that you have not written?

A: An easy question. It is The Little World of Don Camillo. There is no other book like it, so sweet, so funny, so moving, sometimes suspenseful. I wish I had written it.

Q:What book are you working on now?

A: Sorry. Writers should never talk about what they’re working on next. It will be done when it’s done, and then I’ll be glad to talk about it. But not now.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

While Doug struggles to be more than the thug that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer, as they explore Audubon's art.

(summary from another edition)

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