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Review: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Okay for Now
By Gary D. Schmidt
Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
ISBN: 9780547152608
Grades 6-8
In Stores

*Best New Book*

Here are the stats from this book:

Memorable voices: one. The book is told from the perspective of eighth grader and devoted Joe Pepitone fan Doug Sweiteck, who moves with his family to Marysville, New York in the summer of 1968.

Members of Doug’s family: five. Doug’s mother, father, older brother Christopher, and oldest brother Lucas, stationed in Vietnam.

Number of unforgettable villains: one. Doug’s dad is one of the most contemptible characters I’ve read. His abuse fills Doug’s home life with tension, anger, and danger.

Number of plates missing from John James Audubon’s Birds of America on display at the Marysville library: nine. Images from this rare book, which catches Doug’s eye immediately, are being sold off by the city. Under the artistic tutelage of one of the librarians Doug begins drawing the birds and soon sets his mind to getting the missing plates back. Audubon’s work serves as a uniting theme throughout the entire book.

Number of classes Doug takes at Washington Irving Junior High School: six. And after a “misunderstanding” with the gym teacher, seven. Things aren’t terrible until Doug’s classmates discover an embarrassing (and truly shocking) secret about him, turning these classes (and especially the moments in between them) into a fight for survival. His life a wreck, Doug struggles to return to okay.

Number of memorable characters: at least two handfuls worth. Lil Spicer, Mrs. Windermere, Coach Reed, Principle Peattie – I could keep on rattling, but you get the picture. Schmidt has a knack for developing memorable characters, adding layers of richness in the process.

Moments that strain the suspension of disbelief: one. It has something to do with a Broadway play. Implausible? I suppose, but a relatively small piece of the story. I think most readers will be willing to take the leap.

Beautifully unexpected moments: too many to count. Schmidt’s book had me feeling more emotion – sadness, happiness, and everything in between – than any other book I’ve read this year.

Libraries that should add Okay for Now to their collection: All of them.

Review copy from library

Watch the Okay for Now book trailer:

(Thanks to Watch. Connect. Read. for the video link)

Also reviewed by A Fuse #8 Production, Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac, Bookends, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, Literate Lives, A Year of Reading, Waking Brain Cells.

Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Whoa! Gary writes his manuscripts on a typewriter!

  2. This has been my top Newbery pick since I read it back in February! I forced it on my summer book club and can’t wait to get more students to read it!

  3. Amy Hesterman says

    LOVED THIS BOOK!!! While I think some of the story line is too much for my 6th graders (Christian school), the lunch lady and I couldn’t get enough of precious Doug Sweiteck and his cast of characters in Marysville. We sat together after school in Kindergarten-size chairs and picked apart this delicious story until we absolutely had to go home. I think adults would have a better appreciation for this story than teens. Those of us who grew up in the 70s can’t help but recall the outcomes of the Vietnam War and what it was like to grow up in an era when riding your bike to the library on a Saturday was sweet entertainment. My favorite book of the year hands down!!

  4. I agree, I couldn’t put it down. Such memorable characters that I’ve told everyone I talk to about it. I’m now reading The Wednesday Wars, & can’t believe I missed it when it came out. It, too, is very good. Thanks for the creative way you reviewed!

  5. Is it bad that I’m tickled that he still writes his manuscripts on a typewriter? So. Cool.

    Excellent book, as well.

    • Yeah, the typewriter is awesome – talk about eliminating distractions.

      • I’m just interested that he sees the typewriter as a device to slow his writing process down. (Is there a device for me to speed my writing process up?) And I wonder what a typed, one-of-a-kind first draft means for his revision process. At some point he must move the manuscript over to a computer…before or after he sends it to his editor, I wonder? Unanswered questions!

  6. This book was so beautiful. Best book I’ve read in forever.

  7. This may be a hard sell to children.I have not had any luck getting my own children to read it. Adults seem to be much more fond of historical settings than children are.

  8. With the 2012 Newbery coming up I finally read WEDNESDAY WARS and OKAY back-to-back. Astounding. Not an easy book to sum up, but our review of OKAY is fantastic!!

  9. Terri Sittig says

    Our middle school is reading “Okay For Now” as a school-wide read aloud. This is our first school-wide read and it has been a huge hit. We promoted the book by posting pictures of Joe Pepetone all over the school with a caption asking students if they knew who he was. The entire faculty and staff put bags on their heads and yelled “okay for now” as the kids left for the day. Needless to say, we peeked their interest. We are halfway through the book and grades 5-8 are totally engaged in the story!