If you read no other book I ever suggest, please read this book! I started this book about a week ago, but never really sat down for any length of time with it until yesterday. But once I started yesterday, I just could not stop. Like riding a roller coaster, I found myself laughing out loud, turning the page and then sobbing. I was exhausted after reading Okay for Now. It's one of those stories that stays with you long after you've finished.
When Doug Swieteck moves with his family to Upstate New York, they don't leave all their problems behind. Doug's father is abusive and drinks too much. His oldest brother is serving in Vietnam, and his other brother is prone to mischief and has been accused of burglery. Trying to find his way in his new school and town is difficult to say the least.
But Doug finds escape when he visits the local library and sees the plates of John James Audubon's Birds of America. Each plate speaks to Doug, and he relates each to people in his life. Set during the late 60's, the excitement of the moon landing, the uncertainty of the Vietnam War, and the thrill of baseball create a lush background for the characters who, through Mr. Schmidt amazing prose, look to the future and become better than they were.
I read this book because one of my students read it at the end of the year and told me numerous times how good it was. And I'm sure my kids would love it. Having said that, I don't think I will share it with my kids. First of all, I couldn't get through it without crying like the wuss I am. More than that though, I'm not sure 5th graders have enough prior knowledge to appreciate more than the basic story line. I do plan on using parts of Okay for Now when I teach voice, "I'm not lying!"
"I should tell you that I was revealing this terrible secret to Lil while Miss Cowper was trying to teach us the Wonders of the Adverb and that when she asked if Lil and I had anything we'd like to share with the whole class, we stopped, quickly understanding was watching us angrily and would beat us mercilessly if we did not cease immediately. And I'm giving you that last sentence just to show that you can too talk and learn at the same time." (p. 190)
Is that great for teaching voice, or what?! I read it, and then read it out loud, and giggled like my 3 year old niece!
What I think I will do with this book is offer it to the 8th graders for a book club selection. Of course, we don't have an 8th grade book club. Yet. I will just have to start one just so I can share this book with students who will love it as much as I do!