Doug Swieteck has a lot of hurdles to clear if he’s to succeed in 1970’s Marysville, his new home. His father and older brother are abusive, another brother is in Vietnam, his mother is browbeaten and discouraged, and Doug himself has a history of difficulty in school. But he does have one thing going for him… he has an authentic Yankees jacket given to him by star first baseman and outfielder Joe Pepitone. Sadly, Doug has to hide the jacket to keep his brother from taking it like he took the Yankees cap that had also been a gift from Pepitone.
Initially, Doug hates Marysville – it’s too far from Yankee Stadium – and despairs of fitting in. It doesn’t help when he gets off on the wrong foot with most of the teachers in his new school. But he soon finds a part-time job delivering groceries on Saturday mornings; a full-time friend in the grocer’s daughter, Lil Spicer; and an unlikely safe haven at the Marysville Library where a rare folio of Audubon paintings, open to “The Arctic Tern,” draws him like a magnet. One of the librarians notes Doug’s interest and encourages him to learn about art and try his hand at replicating Audobon’s painting. Doug’s growing understanding of and appreciation for art help him to not only weather life’s storms but to try to right some of its wrongs.
Okay for Now, a stand-alone sequel to The Wednesday Wars, is noteable for the manner in which the author shares principles of art and design, and art teachers, students, and afficianados will enjoy the work for that aspect alone. But Okay for Now is much more than that. It is marked by hearty laughter, heartbreaking cruelty and heartwrenching beauty. It is a remarkable work of historical fiction that digs into the hard ground of themes like loss, justice, survival and more. Schmidt probes deeply and sometimes painfully, uncovering treasure in the end.
Update: Doug Swieteck may be Okay for Now, but I’m not! Gary Schmidt was robbed! This outstanding book deserved the Newbery Award, and to leave the awards ceremony empty handed – not even a Newbery Honor – is unbelievable!