Okay for Now

Written by:  Gary D. Schmidt

“The Dump” is what Doug Swieteck calls his new home in upstate New York. He lands there in the summer of 1968, when the Apollo space missions are under way, Joe Peptone is slugging for the New York Yankees, and the Vietnam War is raging. At home he lives with a father who has lost his way and a brother accused of robbery. And Doug’s oldest brother is returning from Vietnam. Who knows what wounds his missions have given him? But Doug has his own mission, too, and it begins when he first sees the plates of John James Audubon’s Birds of America at the local library. His mission will open a world as strange to him as the lunar landscape.

Jacket copy is provided by Sandpiper-Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

This is the first book I’ve read by Gary D. Schmidt and I am hooked! The easy going confidential way in which Doug tells his story is a perfect fit to a life that is the opposite of easy going and gets less confidential as the story moves on. His struggles are sadly that of many children, and whether you find Doug’s story similar to your own, similar to someone you know, or neither, its insight is blended into a story that everyone can find something inside to relate to.

Discussion/Project Ideas:

1. Visual art is a wonderful way to tell a whole story without any words. This task could include any form of storytelling related to a piece of art.
A. Choose a piece of art (or let students choose one on their own) and have each student write a story he/she thinks the piece of art tells.
B. Have each student make a piece of art that tells a story about his/her own life and then write the story on the back. Have people guess the main idea of the story and put their ideas on notecards. See if anyone gets close.  This could be done as a class “art walk” where everyone is perusing the works of art and putting their ideas in a bowl in front of each project.

2. At the end, pretend that Mr. Daughetry did not come with the message he gave to Christopher at the dinner table. Write an alternate way (scene) the police could have found the real thief.

3. Mrs. Windermere takes stories and adapts them for stage performances. With a partner, or in a group, choose a scene from the book and write it for a stage performance. Then, perform it!

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