Friday, February 4, 2011

Gary Schmidt and Best Books Ever

Sunrise was at 7:32, sunset will be at 5:15 but on days like this, it just stays dark and gets darker until it's night. It's cold, wet, windy; gray, sage and brown. I know there are bright spots out there somewhere but it's too uncomfortable outside to go look. I just heard that it's 50 degrees and my feet are freezing.

It's noon, I've been up for an hour, too many late nights reading, have drunk half a pot of coffee, and am boiling up some beans for chili. I can't seem to focus on any one thing: it took me 20 minutes to empty the dishwasher and I still haven't put the pans away. Looked at facebook, then got distracted by a pile of books, then jumped back and forth between the blogger dashboard and email. I finally turned the heat up and the heat has risen to my shoulders and now I'm too warm (and my feet are still cold).

Since it's Friday and my day off, anything for an excuse, I am going to make ramen for lunch! YAY! My favorite comfort food. And, yes, the small, square, packages that are 10 for a dollar, are my ramen of choice. Lots of celery, snow peas, and some cheese all melted through. Mmmmm. I used to make this for my high school boyfriend; in college I had a friend over for dinner and this is what I made (he said, "Maybe you can't cook, but you can sure stir!"). I love this stuff. I know it's not the best possible food on earth, and I always end up napping after, but it makes me HAPPY!

I received the boxes of books (and, yes, I said BOXES) from the Winter Institute shipping room and I left them unopened for a couple of days, sitting on the floor in the dining room. I put off opening them because it was such a treat knowing what was inside, knowing how great it was going to be to get inside and pull them out, one book at a time, ruffling the pages, looking at the back covers, putting this one in the immediate pile, this one in the next pile, this one on the table so I could read it NOW.

I pulled Divergent out first and read that one in one long pull, then I searched for Okay for Now, written by Gary D. Schmidt, because I really wanted to read that one first.

Okay for Now is Mr. Schmidt's companion to The Wednesday Wars, one of the best books ever. And now I can add Okay for Now to my list of One of the Best Books Ever.

Doug Swieteck is an 8th grader. His dad is a slob and an alcoholic, a mean man. His mom is amazing, his brother is beginning to take after his dad, and his other brother is in Viet Nam. When the book begins, they have to move away from the world they know to "Stupid Marysville", a town with a stupid library, a stupid store, and a stupid school, because his dad got himself fired from his stupid job.

I don't want to tell you too much about the book because it is such a joy to read. I told D. how much I liked this book and a little bit about it and he said something along the lines of "sounds really uplifting". Well, it is. Doug is a great character and so realistic. He's confused, unhappy, worried, angry but so wants to do well and be a good friend. Will he ever get his chance? Will his hoodlum brother's reputation always get in Doug's way? Will his dad's friend, Ernie, get him fired again? What will happen when/if his oldest brother comes home from the war? How is he going to deal with school when his disabilities are discovered?

Thank whatever's out there for libraries, librarians, and friends who see something good in you. When Doug finally gets himself admitted to the library and makes his way to an echoey room with a glass box in the center, he finds something that gives his life focus and reason. That enclosed book and its paintings of birds give him something beautiful and all his own to hold close to his chest. Something his father can't take, that he can share in little ways with others, and something outside himself that he feels he can make the world a better place.

I LOVED this book. Now I want to reread Wednesday Wars and then this one, again.

Gary D. Schmidt will be coming to Third Place Books in May. Read one of his books and then come meet him. The photo at the top of the page is of Gary signing my copy of Okay for Now at Winter Institute. Isn't that COOL!

(And the ramen? it was good and I started Bumped, by Megan McCafferty, while I ate and scraped up every bit of stringy cheddar and snapped into those bright green veggies.)

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