Remember The Wednesday Wars? After finishing it, I saw there was another book featuring the same characters, and I was heartbroken because I didn’t have it on my Kindle.
Or so I thought. Until I was looking through my list of YA books and came across it by accident. I then immediately abandoned whatever book I was reading at the time and dove right in to Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt.
It’s a similar story, but now starring Douglas Swietick instead of Holling Hoodhood. I take that back, it’s actually a very different story, since Doug wasn’t born to an white-collar-dad-the-architect but to a blue-collar dad-who-keeps-getting-fired-and-has-quick-hands-to-boot. As you can imagine, that makes quite the difference.
At first, Doug is miserable when they have to move to stupid Marysville, leaving behind everything he’s known because his dad has just gotten himself fired, again. But that slowly changes over time, mostly due to a little girl, a librarian, and Audubon.
That’s right. Where the last book had Shakespeare to tie the narrative together, this book has birds. More specifically, the big drawn plates of birds that are part of a folio in the local library. (At least, that were part of a folio. The town council keeps selling off the individual plates to pay the bills. It really is quite cold-hearted of them and it kills the librarians to come into work every day and find another bird missing.) Doug finds himself unexpectedly drawn to the birds, and when Mr. Powells, the librarian, finds him unconsciously drawing them with his fingers on the glass plate covering the book, he gives him paper and pencils and becomes his unofficial art teacher. (And just like you learned a lot about Shakespeare in the last book, you’ll learn a lot about art techniques in this one. One of the reasons it pays off to be a reader – you become an expert on random things along the way.)
The conflict in this story is a little similar to the previous book – does Doug let himself be defined by his family? – but with some different elements – like Jane Eyre, a rocking horse in a physics classroom, and a Saturday job delivering groceries. And the birds, of course. Really, it’s almost worth reading this book for the birds alone.