Newbery Verdict: The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars // by Gary D. Schmidt

wednesday-warsNewbery Honor Book (2008)
Genre: Upper MG, Historical Fiction (1960s)
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Holling Hoodhood is the only kid in class who doesn’t have catechism or bar mitzvah lessons on Wednesdays. This means he’s stuck in school with his teacher. And guess what? She’s not exactly keen on having Holling there, and he’s convinced that she’s out to get him. This is confirmed when she assigns him the task of reading Shakespeare. And so begin the Wednesday Wars.


This is the story of a boy and his teacher and how their relationship blossoms. One of the best scenes is when Holling suggests they come up with a code so that he knows he’s doing something right. Her response is to basically roll her eyes.

I love all the Shakespeare references. It’s fun how this extends to Holling’s life beyond the classroom, when he finds himself in the theatrical production of The Tempest. Of course, this fact gives us no shortage of conflict involving the school bully and yellow feathers.

The title of this book is spot on. The Wednesday Wars brings out the themes of the war between Holling and his teacher; the war between Holling and his sister; between Holling and his dad; between the dad and the rival architect; and of course, the Vietnam War itself since this is a book set in the 1960s.


“No teacher jokes,” I said. “No one ever laughs at teacher jokes.”

“All right… No teacher jokes.” …

“And no rolling your eyes, even if someone says something really stupid.”

“I never roll my eyes,” said Mrs. Baker.

I looked at her.

“All right,” she said. “No rolling eyes. Anything else, coach?”

“When someone does something good, I think you should let them know, with some sort of code.”

“I think you mean that when someone does something well–as in obeying the rules of proper diction–we should use a code. What do you suggest?”

“Well, maybe ‘Azalea’ for something good, and ‘Chrysanthemum’ for something really good.”

“Thank you, Mr. Hoodhood. We’ll dispense with the code, and I’ll simply use the unvarnished English language to tell you when you’ve done something well. But as to teacher jokes, folding of arms, and rolling of eyes, I’ll consider your advice.”

(Chapter – March)


My rating is 4.5 Stars (out of 5) – When I first read this book about 10 years ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d never read anything by this author before. And I loved it! The Newbery Winner that year (2008) was Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz. I haven’t read it, so I can’t comment. But another Newbery Honor for 2008 was Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (which I have read; and also love). If I had been one of the Newbery decision-makers that year, I’d have had a hard time choosing between those two books!

By the way, there’s a companion book to this one called Okay for Now, which features Holling’s friend: Doug Swieteck. You can read my review here.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal, or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.


Photo Challenge #28 / Something Grows

“Peek-a-Boo” / Theme: Texture

A little about this photo…

I love the texture of this weathered, old gate. And of course the lilies that are peeping through add a nice pop of colour. I could have picked a dozen prompts for this, but I finally decided to go with the “Something Grows” prompt.

THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join us in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

I Wanted to Love This Book But…

**Please note that there MAY BE SPOILERS in this blog post. Whether it’s for this book, or for The Secret Garden.**

I wanted to love this book. Really I did.

And I tried. I even managed to finish it, in hopes that I would like it.

return-to-secret-gardenThe book in question? Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb.


I started to write out my typical review: What’s Cool / What’s Not Cool. And I just kept coming up with points for What’s Not Cool.  I’m not sure I had a single point for What’s Cool.

So, I’m writing this post instead.

This is one of those books that couldn’t survive without the original. In fact, that’s why we (the reader) pick it up. To return to a book world we love. In this case, the classic story of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The best thing for me about this book (the Holly Webb sequel) was figuring out the connections. Like who’s Martha? And Dickon? Colin was an easy one to figure out (since he’s obviously the “new” Mr. Craven). And I will admit, I kept reading to find out how/when Mary comes into the story. (So, I guess I have a point for What’s Cool after all!)

Sigh. But then…

The MC (Emmie) is not very likable. Not that this is weird in and of itself. Because Mary Lennox of the original is not very likable either, especially at the opening of the original story. But Mary grows on you. The author tried to do this with Emmie, and it sort of works, but not like it did with Mary. In fact, I felt the comparison between the two girls a little heavy-handed!

And then there’s the problem of identical plot points. A grouchy old gardener? Check. A sympathetic robin? Check. Ghostly cries in the night? You better believe we got those as well! (Can you see my eyes rolling?)

First of all, that last one (the ghostly cries) worked in original book because of the SECRET of Colin Craven. (Mary’s not supposed to know about him.  And she doesn’t—and we don’t either—until she discovers the secret.)

This new book doesn’t have a secret like that. And the revelation? (Can you see my eyes rolling again?)

Mary does come into the story. I had suspicions quite early on about how this would happen. Cue more eye rolls. (I was hoping for something a little more original.)

And guess what! The garden isn’t so secret anymore either. I mean it sort of is, but not really. IMHO, that part of the story was also a bit of a bust.

I could go on, but I won’t.

I don’t know why I even bother with these types of books. (I had a similar experience a few years ago with Before Green Gables, by Budge Wilson. I think I have a headache now.)

So, why do I even read these books? I think it’s because I know these authors must LOVE these stories as much as me. Why else would they want to write sequels or prequels or whatever. They want to bring us back to the characters we love so much. But sadly, it never quite works out that way.

Will I try another of these types of books in the future?


Because, at heart, I’m an optimist.

Although, maybe not for awhile.


Have you read this book? Did you love it? Am I being too critical?

Tag / Sunshine Blogger Award

Thank you Suziey Bravo @ Of All the Books in All the Libraries for the nomination of the Sunshine Blogger Award. This award is given to bloggers by other bloggers who are creative, positive, and inspiring. It’s always nice to know that people enjoy what you write on your blog. I certainly enjoy reading Suziey’s posts. Be sure to check them out!


  • Thank the blogger who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and ask them 11 new questions
  • List the rules and display the sunshine blogger award logo in your post/or on your blog

Suziey’s Questions For Me:

1. Would you rather travel back in time and alter history or go to the future and find out how and when you die?
I guess I’d choose to travel back in time. But I don’t know if I’d try to alter history. I’m of the opinion that altering history might just bring about worse events. (I think I’ve seen too many movies!) But I’d like to go back in time and visit some of my favourite time periods. Regency or Victorian England would be my first stop.

2. Think of your favorite word. Recommend a book whose title corresponds with a letter in your favorite word. 
This was a hard one. I finally came up with the word “Ellicott”. I like how this word rolls off the tongue. [Edit: I just realized that I did a book for every letter. I don’t think I was supposed to do that. Anyway, I’ve decided to leave it. Consider the other books to be bonus recommendations!]

E – Ella Enchanted // by Gail Carson Levine

L – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe // by C.S. Lewis

L – Little Women // by Louisa May Alcott

I – Iggie’s House // by Judy Blume

C – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory // by Roald Dahl

O – On the Banks of Plum Creek // by Laura Ingalls Wilder

T – The Time Garden // by Edward Eager

T – Tuck Everlasting // by Natalie Babbitt

3. Who would win in an arm wrestling game, you or your best friend?
Hmmm… We’d probably start the arm wrestling match, then say, “Let’s have tea instead.” And we’d have tea. It’s a tie! Yay!

4. When was the last time you binge watched a show and what was it?
Lucy Worsley’s history presentations. From Jane Austen to the Russian Czars to the history of the British fascination with all things Murder. (Thank-you to one of my RL best friends for recommending Lucy!)

5. What place would you never ever want to visit?
Anyplace that has poisonous snakes, spiders, or other such creatures that live in the wild.

6. Have you met any celebrities before, and if so, who?
I haven’t really met any big celebrities. But I did once see Princess Diana. She was visiting Niagara Falls with her sons and they went on the Maid of the Mist (the boat that takes tourists to the falls). My friends and I stood at the top watching the boat. Of course, we couldn’t actually see them, but we waited patiently. Finally, the van carrying the royals drove up the hill and by the viewing platform where we were standing. My one friend screamed (she was the true royal fan among us). I had my little trusty camera (110 film!) and snapped a photo. Of course, I had to wait about a week to see if the photo turned out. It did! (I wish I could show it here, but unfortunately it’s not in my current location.) That’s my celebrity story. I saw Princess Diana for 2 seconds… through a viewfinder of a camera.

7.  Do you hear yanny or laurel? (Click here, listen to the audio recording, and then come back and write your answer)
I heard Laurel. Not sure what that means, though.

8. Is there anything you miss about your childhood?
I think I miss the carefree days. The days when I could spend hours reading and playing. (Although, my current life isn’t all that bad.)

9. What is your favorite music genre?
Probably classical music. But I also like musical theatre music. (Although I don’t really like Hamilton... Too hip-hoppy for me!)

10. What would be the title of your autobiography?
Here’s a Good Book… Then I’d spend the book trying to convince people to read good books. (I’m not sure what kind of autobiography THAT would be.)

11. What is the first/oldest memory you remember?
I have a memory from when I was probably three years old. There was a house my grandmother and I visited (some friends of hers). They had a “playhouse” under the stairs. I was in heaven! I have never been back to this house, but to this day I remember the joy I had playing there.

My Nominees:

Elza Kinde // Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf // Purely Olivia // MoMo @ Remnants of Wit // Rosi Hollinbeck // Norrie @ Reading Under the Blanket // Crimsonprose // Dani @ Perspective of a Writer // You!

*Note: Don’t feel obligated to do this tag if you don’t have the time or have done this one already. 

My Questions For You:

1. What book did you read over and over when you were a child? What did you like about it?

2. Have you ever written fanmail to an author (or other famous person)? Who? Did you  get a response?

3. You are driving across country with three fictional characters. Who’s driving? Who’s navigating? Who’s there just for the fun of it? Who’s always asking to stop to go to the bathroom? (Remember, you’re in the car, too!)

4. You’re a famous photographer and you have been commissioned to take a portrait of your favourite author. Who is it and why did you choose this author? (In this scenario, time does not matter. So, feel free to choose an author who is either dead or alive.)

5. Would you rather… your favourite author read their next book to you; OR dedicate it to you, where your name will forever be immortalized?

6. You’ve just been kidnapped by a notorious gang of (you guessed it) kidnappers! The members of the SWAT team sent in to rescue you are characters from the last book you read. Who is coming? (And is this a good thing?)

7. What is your favourite quote?

8. You walk into a room. There are three people in the room. Each person is a fictional character that you absolutely cannot stand. Who are these three characters?

9. What was your dream job as a kid? Is it anything like what you do now?

10. You are going to be exiled on a desert island for three months. What are three books you would take with you? (No need to worry about escaping/survival guides. This is a luxurious desert island. There’s just no internet or other such distractions.)

11. Who gave you your love of reading?

Tag! You’re it.


Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

vanderbeekers1Book: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Author: Karina Yan Glaser
Genre: Upper MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: The five Vanderbeeker children have lived forever at their New York City brownstone. But now their landlord, Mr. Beiderman, is kicking them out, even though it’s Christmas. The kids decide it’s time to try to make friends with The Beiderman, even if he’s an award-winning crank. The problem is that they’ve never seen him because he never comes out of his upstairs apartment.


1) I loved this family of five kids. This book reminded me of the The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright, which also takes place in NYC. And I do love the fact that there are five kids. Yay for big families! (And how can you not like their last name!)

2) The illustrations are a wonderful addition to this book. They definitely helped me understand Jessie’s scientific inventions.

3) Quiet Hyacinth, Brave Hyacinth is my favourite Vandereeker! I also like Oliver (the reader) and little Laney is cute. The twins (eldest girls) are fine. I wasn’t crazy about the subplot about the dance, but it was okay. I guess I was just really drawn to the younger Vanderbeekers.

4) There is a hint of mystery to this book with regards to the grouchy recluse neighbour. I was definitely drawn into the mystery surrounding the Beiderman. (I love how they call him “the Beiderman” even though their parents keep reminding them that it’s Mr. Beiderman!)

5) The neighbourhood is sooo New York. I like how Glaser captures the atmosphere of these tiny pockets within the City… the communities where everybody knows everybody else’s business. (It makes me miss living in NYC!)

6) The quotes at the front of the book… One from Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) and the other from Spiderweb for Two (Elizabeth Enright) are delightful. I’m always HAPPY when the authors I read have such love for other authors that I love.

7) The Vanderbeeker parents are wonderful parents. Yay for good parental figures! (Still, the kids always manage to give them the slip, because otherwise it’d be a boring book.)

8) The ending didn’t exactly make me cry, but it DID bring some tears to my eyes. Even though the ending isn’t too surprising, it felt just right.


1) The winter setting. I kept thinking it was summer. The kids never seem to bundle up, even though it’s December. I’ve lived in NYC. While I know it doesn’t have to be freezing cold, it IS cold enough to have to wear a winter coat in December. And if it were somehow unseasonably warm, why didn’t they mention this? Also, the kids go up on the roof at some point to pour water down a special invention (that was pretty cool!), but why are they doing this in December? It felt like a summer book. Or maybe fall/spring.

2) The five-day ticking bomb (being evicted at Christmas) was not necessary. And I found it a little unbelievable. Like suddenly Scrooge was the villain of this story??

3) They go to the bakery A LOT. Where do these kids get all their money? I can’t imagine that the parents are all that wealthy. They don’t seem to have any jobs. Why are they always going to a bakery when their own mother is an amazing baker (her job)? (If I were the mother, I’d be a bit annoyed. And I certainly wouldn’t give my kids money for that.) And why are they going two times a day to get cookies or cheesy croissants?

4) I had a hard time remembering which child was which. I mean the family does have five kids, so it was a little difficult to remember all their names, PLUS all the pets they have in the house. Since the book already has illustrations, why didn’t they give us a family illustration? Even simple silhouettes with names underneath and something to help us identify each character, like Isa (plays the violin); Jessie (the scientist); etc.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I had some mixed feelings about this book. There’s a lot that I loved. The siblings. The Harlem neighbourhood. The cranky neighbour. The attempts of the children to befriend him. But there were also things that irked to no end. Like the sudden eviction and the summer-y (but wait! It’s supposed to be winter!) weather/atmosphere. But in the end, this book came together. I choked up at the end (in a good way), so I will recommend this book 🙂


Have you read this book? Who’s your favourite Vanderbeeker? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Summer Reading Bingo Challenge / June


Middle Grade Carousel is hosting a Summer Reading Bingo challenge, and I decided to give it a shot for their June challenge. And I did it! While I didn’t get a full card, I did get a BINGO.

Thank-you to Elza Kinde for putting this reading challenge onto my radar!

How Does It Work?

Pick your challenge, grab a book, and fill in the squares. Try and get 5 in a row, or attempt to fill in the whole sheet if you’re a speedy reader.


  1. Because this is a Middle Grade Carousel challenge, all of the books on your Bingo board should be MG reads.
  2. Each square needs to be filled with a unique book. You cannot use the same title more than once, even if it fits multiple themes. Choose wisely!
  3. You should only be filling in your Bingo board with books you’ve read during June.

Here are my results…

One Word Title

Wishtree // by Katherine Applegate

wishtree.jpgThe first few chapters, while charming, almost led me to a DNF. This plot of this book really doesn’t get underway until Chapter 10! And by this time I wasn’t sure about this book.

But I’m so glad I stuck with it. This is an absolutely beautiful story of friendship and sacrifice. Much in the vein of The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein (although this book is a much happier book). I particularly  loved the friendship between the the crow and the tree and how they worked together on their plots and plans.

This book actually made me cry near the end. [4.5 stars]

Title Starts with U

Under the Watsons’ Porch // by Susan Shreve

under-watsons-porchI had a hard time liking Ellie, the MC of this book. She tends lie (stretching truth is a kind way of putting it). For example, they start this “day camp” under the neighbours’ porch. When her mom asks if they got permission from the Watson sisters, Ellie lies. And then brushes it off with “Well, the Watson sisters are really old and deaf, so it doesn’t matter” attitude.)

I did like the rebel, Tommy. Although he has his faults as well. He pushes a lot of boundaries. I felt for him being labelled the “bad kid” and was glad when Ellie’s parents finally figure this out. [3 stars]

White Cover

Magic or Not? // by Edward Eager

Magic-or-Not1I love Edward Eager’s books. This is the story of twins, Laura and James, who move with their family to the country. On the train ride up, a strange girl (Lydia) tells them that the well in their yard is really a magic wishing well. Laura tries it out and her wish comes true! This leads to the children having some magical adventures for the summer. Or maybe it’s all a coincidence… Magic or not, this book is definitely a fun romp 🙂 [4 stars]

A Book of Poetry

The Hunting of the Snark // by Lewis Carroll

the_hunting_of_the_snarkThe version I read was illustrated by Chris Riddell, whose illustrations are amazing.

I will preface this by saying that I’m not big on poetry. The kind of poetry that I can tolerate is the stuff that comes in rhymes. So, Lewis Carroll’s poetry is right up my alley. This poem is full of nonsense, but also has some wonderful moments… I especially liked the bit between the Butcher and the Beaver!

A real treat for fans of Alice in Wonderland. [4 stars]

A Book about Dragons

Dragon Boy // by Dick King-Smith

dragon-boyI really enjoyed this book! I haven’t read a Dick King-Smith book in awhile, and this book reminded me how much I like his cheeky writing style. Especially the family dynamics of the Bunsen-Burner family!

I loved the literary allusions, like to the fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. And the hint at why King-Smith named his boy protagonist “John”. [4 stars]

Title Starts with E

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk // by Sid Fleischman

entertainer-and-dybbukI’m almost surprised that this is a kid’s book. It has some pretty heavy themes. Especially with how children were hunted and killed during the Holocaust. It also focuses heavily on revenge.

Not that I don’t think this book shouldn’t exist. I found it very interesting history-wise and I would definitely recommend this to adults or teens. [3 stars]

Reread an Old Favourite

The Magician’s Nephew // by C.S. Lewis

TheMagiciansNephewAh, Narnia! This is the book (while first chronologically, I think should not be read until later in the series) that gives us the back story to the whole world of Narnia. (It’s a prequel before the word prequel existed!) And it’s a wonderful story… Of Digory and Polly. Of a friendship that goes through ups and downs. Of a mother who is dying and a son whose greatest wish is to find the land of youth so she won’t die.

I particularly love the exchange over Digory’s name:

“I say, what a funny name!” said Polly.

“It isn’t half so funny as Polly,” said Digory.

(Chapter 1)

I picked up this book because I just saw a play (on which it was based). I was pleasantly surprised to see HOW much the play resembled the book. (Kudos to the playwright! It’s currently at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada.) What a wonderful book to revisit. [5 stars]

Pick Your Prompt // A Book About New York City

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street // by Karina Yan Glaser

vanderbeekers1This book is a contemporary read in the same vein as The Saturdays (Elizabeth Enright) and the All-of-a-Kind Family (Sydney Taylor) which were both written in the 1940/50s. So, this book has that nostalgic feel, even though the Vanderbeekers live in our modern world. (Actually, come to think of it, they’re a little like the Penderwicks.)

I love the family (there are five kids!) and how they are trying to save their home from the mean, cranky landlord who lives on the top floor of their brownstone. (Full review coming soon!) [4 stars]

Graphic Novel

The Adventure of the Norwood Builder // by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

norwood-builder-graphic-novelI enjoyed this Sherlock Holmes mystery in graphic novel format. I thought they did a pretty good job. It actually made me go out and get the original story to read… just to make comparisons. 😉

My thoughts overall is that this is a great way to introduce middle graders to Sherlock Holmes! Of course, at some point I think it’s a good idea to graduate to the original. [3.5 stars]

First Book in a Series

The Saturdays // by Elizabeth Enright

saturdaysThis is the book that begins the Melendy Quartet. My mom read this book to me when I was a kid and I loved it. I haven’t read it since (simply because our library, for some reason, decided to discard this book. WHY?). But I was finally able to find a copy. I was a little afraid that I would find that maybe it isn’t as good as I remember.

Can I just say that this book is a masterpiece? Yes, it is. A minor masterpiece, but it is beautifully written. The characters (Mona, Rush, Randy, and Oliver) come to life so amazingly. I love their Saturday adventures in New York City. There’s a reason why I loved this book as a child. And I love it as an adult. The magic is still there! [5 stars]

Final Thoughts…

Those are my results for June with regards to Middle Grade books. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. It was fun to sift through books at the library, trying to pick titles to go with the prompts.

This challenge also forced me to read books I might never have picked up. Like poetry. (I’m glad I did!) I look forward to this month’s challenge 🙂

Your Turn…

If you want to do this for the month of July, there’s a fresh Bingo Challenge. Check it out at #MGCarousel

Photo Challenge #26 / Sweet

“Giant Ice Cream Cone” / Theme: Sweet

A little about this photo…

This ice cream cone is proudly displayed in front of one of those old ice cream stands. I think the stand has been there since the 1960s. The cone itself is pretty big, at least 3-4 feet tall. I left the trees in for scale (Yes, they’re at a distance, but I think they still help you understand that this ice cream cone is giant!) I also love how it’s made of wood.

It’s going to a HOT day today. I think we’re going to need some ice cream!

THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join us in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow

clockwork-sparrowBook: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
Author: Katherine Woodfine
Genre: MG, Historical/Mystery
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Sinclair’s, a new department store in London, is approaching its grand opening. But then, the priceless Clockwork Sparrow is stolen. It’s up to Sophie, Lilian, Billy, and Joe to figure just who the villains are and to return the Clockwork Sparrow to its rightful home.


1) I liked the atmosphere around the opening of the department store: Sinclair’s. I thought the little petty competition between the shop girls was nicely done. This certainly made me like Sophie more. And of course Lil.

2) Which brings me to Sophie and Lil… The two characters are opposites and nicely complement each other. Lil is spontaneous and self-confident. Sophie is more proper and refined.

3) I liked that the mysterious Baron remains mysterious.

4) This book has secret tunnels! Did you get that? Secret. Tunnels. Under London. Ah, who doesn’t like a secret tunnel?

5) The book cover is wonderful. It’s even better in real life. The gold lettering against the blue. The silhouettes are especially fun.


1) While I liked the boys (Billy and Joe), I felt it almost too early for them to join the cast. I hardly know the girls and I think the boys might have been better suited to being introduced in later books???

2) The mystery was okay. However, what I don’t understand is why the grown-ups are not looking out for the young people. The Private Detective says at the end that he had a man shadowing Sophie, so… Hmm… Without spoiling the plot, all I can say is I don’t get why they didn’t ACTUALLY protect her.

3) Things were a little too neatly tied up at the end of the book. Like the location of the clockwork sparrow and how it is discovered. Really? (Is the Baron that careless?)

4) The word “bomb” felt out of place in this book world. I would have preferred the word “explosives” instead of “bomb”. It’s supposed to be prior to World War I. I don’t know how much the word “bomb” would have been on the tongues of the people in this world. It felt wrong.


My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I liked the story. I loved the setting in the department store. I’m being a little picky here, but there were just a few things that took me out of the story. There are two more sequels. I’m not rushing out to get them, but I will probably give them a go and see where the next mystery leads us.


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Don’t you just love that book cover? (The cover looks even better in person!) I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Okay For Now

Okay-for-NowBook: Okay For Now
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Genre: Upper MG, Historical Fiction (1960s)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Doug and his family have just moved to a new town and he hates it there. But then he discovers Audubon’s book, Birds of America, in the library. He goes every Saturday and the librarian sets him on a path to to learn how to draw the birds. Soon he discovers that the birds are slowly being cut out of the book to be sold by the town council. That’s when Doug takes it upon himself to find the missing birds and return them to their rightful spot in the book at the library.

Note: This is a companion book to The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.


1) I loved learning about John James Audubon. Each chapter begins with a picture of one of the birds from the book. And I enjoyed the art lessons at the library with Mr. Powell! I was definitely rooting for Doug to get all the missing birds back into the book.

2) Doug’s English teacher decides that her eighth graders are going to study Jane Eyre (the 160-page abridged version, which for Doug is 160 pages too long). I love Jane Eyre and any book that uses this book as part of their plot is almost a sure bet in my eyes. I also love that this book (Jane Eyre) ends up inspiring other aspects of the plot.

3) I liked how the author had Miss Cowper’s “County Literacy Unit” fit into solving one of Doug’s problems in the book. I love this teacher.

4) The Baseball Quiz/Game at the work picnic for Doug’s father’s work was a fun chapter. Especially in light of the fact that Doug is dealing with some hard things at this time and here he really is able to shine. He’s the one that is able to help his “partner” go for the gold.

5) I loved the character growth and arcs for Doug’s brothers, his father, Coach Reed, Principal Peattie, et al.

6) The relationship with Lil is very sweet.

7) I liked how Schmidt worked the various themes into the book… The flowers (or lack of flowers) for his mother show the growth and the family’s ability to flourish (or not flourish). And the use of the various stages of the Apollo moon mission (Apollos 8 through 11) also is used well to show how much hope and hard work can accomplish.

8) Doug has a great voice in this book.


1) I felt that some of the teachers/classes were not necessary to mention. I kept getting some of the lesser ones mixed up with the teachers we needed to know about. (For example: I think the Geography teacher could have disappeared from the book and nothing bad would have happened.)

2) In one of the chapters, Doug lists the birds that are missing from the book. I wish this list had been repeated later on in the book with an update on which birds had been successfully retrieved and which ones were still missing. I even tried to go back to find that first list and couldn’t find it easily. That annoyed me.

3) The title of this book is just… OKAY. (Ha ha!) The Wednesday Wars (the companion book) is a great title. Okay for Now… Hmm, not so memorable. (I keep having to look it up to know what it is!)


Can you imagine anyone buying tickets to Jane Eyre?

Can you imagine Joe Pepitone buying tickets to Jane Eyre?

Me neither.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Okay, so I LOVED The Wednesday Wars by the same author. This is a companion book and I LOVED this one just as much (almost as much?). If these two books had to be ranked in which one I liked better, I don’t know who would win. 🙂


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!