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Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: 4/5/2011
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About the Book: When Doug Swieteck's father moves his family to "stupid Marysville" Doug couldn't be more annoyed. His new town is boring and there's nothing to do. Doug finds himself on the library steps, exchanging sarcastic words with Lil Spicer, the daughter of the deli owner. Doug decides he'll show Lil he's smart after all and enters the library to find a book of John James Audubon's bird drawings. Doug is drawn to the birds and with the encouragement of the librarian, Mr. Powell, Doug begins to draw his own birds. When Doug learns that the drawings are being sold off to donors because the book is owned by the town, Doug decides to get the drawings back.
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Look at any Mock Newbery list for 2012 and chance are you'll see Okay for Now topping the list, and rightly so. This is a book that will you make you laugh and cry-sometimes at the same time!
Doug Swieteck first appeared in The Wednesday Wars, but readers don't need to be familiar with that book in order to enjoy this one. While they are companion novels, each one stands on it own perfectly. But for readers who have read both, there are some minor details that will make them smile.
The synopsis I wrote doesn't even begin to cover all that's covered in this book! There is a lot happening in the story and at times I felt it was a bit too much. Doug is dealing with a gruff, abusive father, and bullying brothers and at times he can see himself being like them. The thing I thought was the most well done with this storyline was that we see Doug's brothers grow and transform. In the beginning, we don't know Doug's middle brothers name (even in The Wednesday Wars, he's known only as "Doug Swieteck's brother"). Yet, as he grows and dare I say, becomes more human, to Doug, we learn his name and get to know him not as a bullying older brother, but as a brother who cares about his family. Much of the book deals with grief, loss, and recovery. Doug's oldest brother has returned from Vietnam and is not the same. Doug is dealing with the pain of his past because of his father.
There's also the storyline about the loss and recovery of Audubon's drawings. The way Gary D. Schimdt ties Audubon's drawings into the various events in Doug's life is fantastic and wonderful and makes the book a must read. (It's a must read for many other reasons too, but this was the thing that stood out the most to me as the most impressive and "I can't believe how he did that!") It's not easy to take something like Audubon and drawings of birds and make it readable and engaging. Doug relates his journey and various event happening in his life to the birds he is drawing. This could have been very corny and cheesy, and yet it comes of in a realistic way that pulls at the readers heartstrings and makes you further wrapped up in the story.
Yes, at times we need to suspend our belief because some of the storylines are a bit too unrealistic. But that's OK, because it's fun to read about Doug's year and his journey from hating "stupid Marysville" to seeing it as home.
I did think that there were some things that caused this book to have too much going on, but I tend to forgive that because of the way the layers all wove together. There are still some loose ends at the end-not everything can be tied up in a nice bow. I did have a problem with the ending a bit-I felt it was a bit too rushed and the father's storyline at the end felt a bit too fairy-tale-esque and not as realistic, so I think I would have liked to wrap that up more so we had better closure there.
Do I still think this book was fantastic? Very much so. Do I think it has a high chance of landing on the Newbery list come January? Most certainly. Do I think you should pick this one up and read it right now? Of course! One of the best middle grade books of the year and one that will stick with you long after you read it.
Audiobook Note: I listened to this one on audiobook and the narrator did a great job. I would recommend the audiobook, but the one thing I think takes away from the story on audio is that in the print book, each chapter opens with a picture of the drawing that Doug is working on and talking about. This can be especially helpful to readers not familiar with Audubon's drawings.
Full Disclosure: Reviewed from audiobook CD I borrowed from my library