Two words: it's time.
Come ALA's Midwinter Conference, Mr Schmidt better be standing near a telephone. And the conversation should have nothing to do with Newbery honors.
From the publisher: As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.
My snippet of a review is hardly groundbreaking. Anyone who's read anything this year has given five stars to Okay for Now.* But in case you're still piddling around, reading other books, remembering Mr Schmidt's new book in the back of your mind...
1) Buy Okay for Now.
2) Find a kid--your own, your sibling, some skinny thug on the street--
3) Read it to them, out loud.
My mom adored The Wednesday Wars, and I adored Trouble, but Okay for Now bridges the tones of those stories, not too light-hearted, not too heavy, and the result is one of the best middle grade novels of the 21st century. Oh, I'm exaggerating, am I? You obviously haven't read it yet.
(Plus: The Five Little Peppers!!!)
*Of the 766 books I've read on Goodreads, Okay for Now has the highest average rating. The highest. And that's the result of over 1,000 ratings, in case you were still dubious.