I put off reading Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt. because of all the hype- hype kills books for me. So I started reading it and put it down- the dad reminded me too much of my mother. I was encouraged to pick it up and try again- and I did. I started it at 5:00 and didn't go to bed until I finished this morning at 2 AM. The hype? All deserved. As I told Kirby Larson- I'm not lying, this may be the best book I've ever read. I am not going to waste your time with yet another review of Okay for Now. If you want a review, I suggest Betsy Bird's, found here or Travis Jonker's found here. Instead, I give a list of 10 things that you oughta know about before you read this book. Oh- and one more thing, don't be surprised if this book wins the 2012 Newbery Award.
#1 Joe Pepitone: In 1964, Joe Pepitone played first base for the New York Yankees. He won 3 Golden Gloves during his career and played in all three consecutive All Star Games during the first 3 years of his career. He was a homerun hitter and won the 1964 World Series against the St Louis Cardinals with a grand slam. Pepitone was a tough guy from Brooklyn and it's rumored that he spent his entire signing bonus on the drive from New York to Florida- he was said to have bought a Thunderbird, a boat, a dog and a shark skin suit.
#2 Jane Erye: Jane Erye was a book written in 1847 by Charlotte Bronte. It is a coming of age novel about an orphan who suffers physical and emotional abuse as she bounces from place to place. For a book written in 1847, it was ahead of its time. Although Jane was a girl, she was portrayed with strength and strong character. She was a survivor and not a damsel in distress.
#3 John James Audubon: Audubon was a French-American painter and naturalist who came to The US from what is now Haiti in 1803 to avoid The Napoleonic Wars. In 1820 he floated down The Mississippi River to draw all of the birds of North America. By the time he was finished, he had drawn over 435 life-sizeds. It took 14 years, his own money and hard work but his book was finally published in England in 1826. The birds below are by Audubon and play a very important role in the book.
#4 The Vietnam War: I didn't know how much impact The Vietnam War would have on this book... no idea. Long story short: Vietnam is a small country in Southeast Asia. It belonged to France and The USA helped Vietnam gain their freedom. After they defeated France, Vietnam split into 2 parts: North and South. The North was communist (government control of people, resources and information) and The South wasn't. The North wanted to get rid of The US in The South and make all of Vietnam 1 communist country. Although The USA was in Vietnam since 1954, The Vietnam War officially began in 1957 when The USA helped The South fight off the communist regime. 8,744,000 <yes, that is 8 million, 7 hundred 44 thousand> (7,484 were women) personnel had served on active duty. By the time the war ended, 303,704 people were wounded in action. Of those wounded, 75,000 were considered disabled, 23,214 were classified 100% disabled. 5,283 lost limbs (arms or legs), 1,081 sustained multiple amputations (removing their arms or legs). Of the 8 million, 7 hundred 44 thousand sent to Vietnam, 58,156 were killed. Imagine those 303,704 soldiers returning to normal American life... easy? No siree, buster. Not easy at all.
#5 Horseshoes: It would be helpful to know a little bit about the game of horseshoes before Doug & his family go to The Annual Ballard Paper Mill Harvest-Time Picnic.
#6 Orchids: Even though orchids look dainty and fragile, they are actually quite hearty. Orchids will thrive... unless they get a "pest" or they are "over watered". Orchids will bloom and when they do- they are breathtaking. Once their bloom has fallen, it takes a long time for a new one to return. Orchids like to be in the light... but not too much light. Orchids have been known to symbolize beautiful perfection. (Ok, for those of you who have read the book, you know that there are 2 orchids in this book that Doug tends to... one if Lil and the other is his mother. You also know who the "pest" is and how they may have been "over watered" in this book.) Interesting that these are the only 2 characters who receive Orchids from Mr. Ballard.
#7 Apollo 11 Moon Landing:
#8 Coca Cola: In case you didn't know, back in the day, Coca Cola was sold in glass bottles. I am convinced that it tastes better out of a glass bottle and that is why I only drink it out of glass today- not plastic for me No siree, buster! Here are some facts you may not know about Coke: (click to enlarge)
#9 Aaron Copland "Duo for Flute & Piano": Just enjoy this music... and remember it.
#10 1953 Royal Deluxe Typewriter: Like Coca Cola, typing in my day is different than it is now. You use a computer to type your stories, or an iPad... but in my day we used typewriters. Yes, I took typing class in Jr High- not computer keyboarding. We learned how to load the "ink ribbon" and unjam the keys and use white out. In the book, a lady by the name of Mrs. Windermere uses a typewriter (not by choice, it's all there was). I imagine that she uses this typewriter, a 1953 Royal Typewriter, in gray. Why do I imagine it like this? Because the author of this book, Gary D Schmidt wrote Okay for Now on the exact same machine. He says that he likes to use a typewriter because it slows him down and he is forced to revisit the words he types over and over again.
A little bonus for you:
#11 Librarians: Yes. Librarians. Librarians are awesome, as you know and they play a very large role in this book. I would have loved the book without librarians, but I love it even more because of them. My favorite quote from the entire book is when Doug questions whether Mr. Powell the librarian knows what he is doing and he says "I am a librarian. I always know what I am doing."