Friday, February 1, 2013

Case Study No. 0763: Mr. Powell and Mrs. Merriam

Okay for Now Book Trailer
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Book trailer prepared for LS5343.20, Dr. Larson
Summer 2012
Tags: Trailer (book) Okay for Now Gary Schmidt
Added: 6 months ago
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The summer after seventh grade, Doug Swieteck leaves Long Island ...
and his beloved Yankees
for "stupid Marysville."

But the move doesn't solve any problems.

Doug's dad still has more wrong days than right days.
Doug's brother Lucas is still fighting in Vietnam.
And his older brother is still torturing him and earning a reputation as a thug.

Doug's not the sort of kid to hang out at the library, but that's exactly where he ends up ...
Entranced by a painting of an arctic tern
From Birds of America by James Audubon.

Soon he's spending every Saturday learning techniques from Audubon's paintings.

And suddenly a lot of things about Marysville are not so stupid anymore.

But for every friend ...

Lil Spicer
Mr. Powell, the librarian
Mr. Ferris, the science teacher
Mr. Ballard, the paper mill owner

... there's an enemy.

Mrs. Merriam, the librarian
Principal Peatie
Coach Reed
Ernie Eco

It's a year of change for Doug ... and the rest of the world.

Can Doug Swieteck survive 8th grade
make peace in his volatile family
and save Audubon's birds from disappearing?

Okay For Now
Gary D. Schmidt

Sound Credit
"Books Fall Apart (instrumental)" by Abscondo

Book Trailer by S. Ellen Samples



"Okay for Now" by Gary D. Schmidt

Release Date: April 5, 2011 | Age Level: 10 and up | Grade Level: 5 and up

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.



As Doug's friendship with Lil grows, he also finds inspiration in the illustrated plates of John James Audubon's Birds of America. Discovering the rare book on display in the local library, Doug quickly becomes enamored with the illustrations and is encouraged by the librarian to draw the birds himself. A new passion for art is awakened in Doug as well as a mission to preserve the book when Doug discovers the town has been selling the plates to raise money.



Gary Schmidt received a Newbery Honor for two of his books (Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and The Wednesday Wars) and this one is even better. Why? Because Doug Swieteck, the unlikely eighth-grade hero, starts out as the kind of kid you'd write off if you were in his class and give up on if you were his teacher. Instead, Lil Spicer takes a chance on Doug and helps him get a job in her father's deli, and not one but three adults reach out to him. The first is Mr. Powell, who sees Doug staring at a picture of The Arctic Tern in the Audubon book on exhibit in a glass case at the Marysville Free Public Library. Doug thinks, "This bird was falling and there wasn't a single thing in the world that cared at all. It was the most terrifying picture I had ever seen. The most beautiful."

Mr. Powell teaches Doug to draw by sketching the Audubon drawings, one after another. When Doug learns that the library is raising money by selling off the Audubon illustrations, one by one, he starts a mission to reunite them. "When you find something that's whole, you do what you can to keep it that way," he says. His statement comes to mean more than keeping the book whole, it also applies to his family when his brother comes home from Vietnam, and to Doug himself. Because of the cruelty Doug's father shows him, this novel is skewed more to the 10-year-old end of the audience than the eight-year-old end. Your child - boy or girl - will respond to these living, breathing, complicated characters. Doug demonstrates that it's possible to admire beautiful artwork and ace his baseball stats. He can love his mother's smile and stand up to his father. This bittersweet novel will make your child think about whether there's more to that class bully or the quiet kid in the corner than they may see on the surface.



I hate this town.

I hate that we had to come here.

I decided to take a left, then go back to The Dump along another block so people didn't think I was lost or something. And so I turned the corner and looked down the street. There was the girl again, putting her bike in a rack and getting ready to head up into this brick building that was trying to look a whole lot more important than it should because no matter how important it looked it was still in stupid Marysville.

I crossed the street like I'd done it a million times before. It was shadowy under the maples in front of the building.

The girl saw me coming. She reached into the basket and pulled out a chain with pink plastic all around it. She looped it around the bike and the rack and clicked it all together and spun the combination lock before I had crossed the curb. Then she looked up.

I pointed to the chain. "Is that because of me?" I said.

"Should it be?" she said.

I looked over the bike. "Not for this piece of junk," I said. "And if it wasn't a piece of junk and I did want it, a pink chain wouldn't stop me."

She turned and picked up the books from the basket. "Is there something you do want?"

"Not in this town."

Her eyes narrowed. She held her books close to her - like my mother with her plants. And then I knew something.

This is what I knew: I was sounding like Lucas when he was being the biggest jerk he could be, which was usually just before he beat me up.

I was sounding like Lucas.

"You must have just moved here," she said.

I decided I wouldn't be Lucas.

"A few hours ago," I said. I put my hands in my pockets and sort of leaned back into the air. Cool and casual.

But I was too late.

"That's a shame," she said. "But maybe you'll get run over and I won't have to chain my bike anymore. Now I'm going up into the library." She started to talk really slow. "A library is a place where they keep books. You probably have never been in one." She pointed to the street. "Go over there and walk down the broken white line with your eyes closed, and we'll see what happens."

"I've been in plenty of libraries before," I said.

She smiled - and it wasn't the kind of smile that said I love you - and she skipped up the six marble steps toward the marble entrance. You know how much I was hoping she would trip on the top step and scatter her books everywhere and she'd look at me like I had to come help her and I wouldn't but maybe I would?

But she didn't trip. She went in.

And so what if I've never been in a library before? So what? I could have gone into any library I wanted to, if I wanted to. But I never did, because I didn't want to. You think she's been to Yankee Stadium like I have? You think Joe Pepitone's jacket is hanging up in her basement?

I climbed the six steps - and she didn't see me trip on the top one, so it didn't matter. I pushed open the glass door and went in.

It was dark inside. And cool. And quiet. And maybe stupid Marysville was a dump, but this place wasn't. The marble outside led to marble inside, and when you walked, your footsteps echoed, even if you had sneakers on. People were sitting around long tables with green-shaded lamps, reading newspapers and magazines. Past the tables was a desk where a woman with her glasses on a chain looped around her neck was working as if she didn't know how dumb glasses look when you've got them on a chain looped around your neck. And past her started the shelves, where I figured the stuck-up girl with the bike was, picking out a new stack of books to put into her basket and take back to her pretty little Marysville house.

Suddenly I wasn't sure I wanted her to see me.

So when I saw another staircase - marble again - circling up to the next floor, I took it. Its steps were smooth and worn, as if lots of people like the girl with the bike had been climbing up here for lots of years.

Even the brass banister shone bright from all the hands that had run along it.

So what if everyone in stupid Marysville comes into the stupid library every stupid day? So what?

I got to the top and into this big open room with not much. There was a painting on the wall, a guy with a rifle across his chest looking as if he was having a vision or something. And in the middle of the room, there was this square table with a glass case on top. And that was it. All that space, and that was it. If my father had this space, he'd fill it with tools and boards and a drill press and a lathe and cans and stuff before you could spit twice. There'd be sawdust on the floor, cobwebs on the ceiling, and the smell of iron and machine oil everywhere.

I went over to the table to see how come it was the only lousy thing in the whole lousy room.

And right away, I knew why.

Underneath the glass was this book. A huge book. A huge, huge book. Its pages were longer than a good-size baseball bat. I'm not lying. And on the whole page, there was only one picture. Of a bird.

I couldn't take my eyes off it.

He was all alone, and he looked like he was falling out of the sky and into this cold green sea. His wings were back, his tail feathers were back, and his neck was pulled around as if he was trying to turn but couldn't. His eye was round and bright and afraid, and his beak was open a little bit, probably because he was trying to suck in some air before he crashed into the water. The sky around him was dark, like the air was too heavy to fly in.

This bird was falling and there wasn't a single thing in the world that cared at all.

It was the most terrifying picture I had ever seen.

The most beautiful.

I leaned down onto the glass, close to the bird. I think I started to breathe a little bit more quickly, since the glass fogged up and I had to wipe the wet away. But I couldn't help it. Dang, he was so alone. He was so scared.

The wings were wide and white, and they swooped back into sharp rays. And between these, the tail feathers were even sharper, and they narrowed and narrowed, like scissors. All the layers of his feathers trembled, and I could almost see the air rushing past them. I held my hand as if I had a pencil in it and drew on the glass case, over the tail feathers. They were so sharp. If my hand had shaken even a tiny bit, it would have ruined the whole picture. I drew over the ridges of the wings, and the neck, and the long beak. And then, at the end, I drew the round and terrified eye.

On the table beside the display case was a printed card. I put it in my back pocket.


I went back to the library on Monday, a little while after my father swore himself out of the house and headed off to the Ballard Paper Mill, where he was going to let Mr. Big Bucks Ballard know he wasn't some kind of a jerk. When my mother told him that maybe he shouldn't say anything and he should be happy to have a job, he said something to her that you don't need to hear but that I heard fine, since the walls in The Dump are, like I said, cardboard.

So I got to the library way too early because it was still dark inside, and I sat on the marble steps to wait, since what else do you think I'm going to do in stupid Marysville, New York? I mean, it wasn't like Horace Clarke was around to bat with.

So I guess I waited most of the morning. When people walked by, they'd look at me like I didn't belong there. You know what that feels like after a while?

I'm not lying, if Joe Pepitone had walked by, he would have stopped. He would have sat down next to me on the stupid steps and we would have talked about the season, like pals. Just talking. How maybe the season wasn't going as good as he wanted. How maybe he'd only had thirteen home runs last year, but so what? He had thirty-one the year before that. And even though he wasn't playing as many games this year, he'd probably get way past thirteen. Stuff like that.

And then someone would notice that Joe Pepitone was sitting on the steps of the library with me, and the news would spread all around stupid Marysville, and people like the girl with the stupid pink chain would start to gather and they'd all look at me and wish they were sitting on the steps with Joe Pepitone. And then Joe Pepitone would say, "Hey, Doug, it's getting crowded around here. What say we go someplace and throw a few?" And we'd get up and walk through the crowd, and the girl with the stupid bike would have to back away and everyone would look at us and they'd wish they were the ones walking someplace with Joe Pepitone to throw a few.

So I waited on the library steps.

But Joe Pepitone didn't come.

The girl with the bike did.

I looked at her. "You going to the library again?" I said.

"No," she said, "I'm not going to the library again. What are you doing here?"

"What does it look like?"

"It looks like you're waiting for the library to open."

"That's right." I leaned back against the stairs. Pretty cool, like before.

She got off the bike and flipped down the kickstand. "Do you think I can trust you?" she said.

I wondered if this was supposed to be a trick.

"Sure," I said. Kind of slowly. Probably not so cool.

"Then watch this for me."

She walked down the block. I leaned forward and saw her turn into a store. After a minute, she came out with two Cokes in her hand. She walked back and handed me one. It was so cold, there was still ice on the outside of the bottle, and frozen air came out of the open top like fog.

She sat down next to me. "You didn't steal my bike," she said.

"This piece of junk?"

"You know, you might have to wait a long time," she said.

"Where did you get these?"

"My father owns Spicer's Deli."

"So you just went in and told him to give you two Cokes and he gave them to you?"

"No, I didn't just go in and tell him to give me two Cokes. I asked for a Coke for me and a Coke for the skinny thug sitting on the library steps."

"The skinny thug?" I looked around. "Is someone else here?"

"The library is only open on Saturdays," she said. "And since today is Monday, you're going to be here for a while. So I felt sorry for you and got you a Coke."

"How do you know it's only open on Saturdays?"

She looked at me like I was visiting from Planet ZX-15. "Most people can tell when they read the sign posted on the door that says the library is open only on Saturdays."

I took a sip of the Coke. "I didn't see the sign," I said. "And what kind of a library is only open on Saturdays?"

"Why do you care?" she said.

I pulled the card from the display case out of my pocket and showed her.

"'Arctic Tern,'" she read aloud. "You want to see an Arctic tern? Wouldn't it be a whole lot more likely to find one in, say, a zoo?"

"A painting of one," I said, and took another sip of the Coke.


The Next Saturday - the Saturday before I was going to begin my new job at Spicer's Deli, which if they thought I was any good I would have been starting now - I was waiting on the library steps.


People who passed by looked at me like I didn't belong.


I hate stupid Marysville.

Every few minutes I went up the six steps to the library doors and tried them and they were, of course, still locked, so I'd go sit down. I waited for what must have been an hour, until finally the woman with her glasses on a chain looped around her neck - she already had them looped around her neck even though she wasn't even in the library yet - she came walking up the block and climbed the steps and looked back down at me like I was trespassing.

"The Marysville Free Public Library does not open until ten o'clock," she said.

"I know," I said.

"These steps were not made for people to sit on," she said, "especially since you might get in the way of others who would wish to use them."

I looked up and down the block, then moved way over to the edge of the steps. "Dang," I said. "I didn't see all the people jamming to get inside. Don't they all know that the Marysville Free Public Library does not open until ten o'clock?"

She sniffed. I'm not lying. She sniffed. "Go find some other place to be rude," she said.

"Is this one reserved for you?" I said.

I know. I was sounding like Lucas.

She took out a key from her purse, put it into the door and opened it, and went inside. She clanged the door shut behind her. She turned the bolt in the lock hard enough for me to hear.

I hate this stupid town. I hate it.

I waited on the steps. Right in the middle of them. My legs all spread out as far as I could spread them.

It wasn't too much longer before an old guy came from the other direction. He had glasses on a chain looped around his neck too, and I almost told him what a jerk he looked like with glasses looped around his neck, except I figured it wouldn't make any difference. He probably wouldn't even care that he looked like a jerk.

"You're an eager one," he said. "But the library doesn't open until ten o'clock."

"That's what I've been told," I said.

And he laughed, like there was something funny about that.

"I see you've met Mrs. Merriam. Is that why you're sitting like that?"

I looked at him. He had hair coming out of funny places - like his ears, his nose, between his eyes. He didn't need the looped glasses to look like a jerk.

"I guess," I said.

"You should be glad she hasn't called a policeman to have you removed." He pulled out a pocket watch - I'm not lying, a pocket watch - and flipped it open. "It's already past nine thirty," he said. "I don't think we'll undermine all law and order in the state of New York if I let you in early."

He put his pocket watch back and then took the steps kind of slowly. He puffed his breath out when he reached the top. "There seems to be more of these every time I climb them," he said, and took a key from his pocket.

The library was even cooler than it had been a week ago, and darker, since the only light came through windows that were stained yellow and didn't let in all that much.

Mrs. Merriam glanced up from the desk, and when she saw me, the look on her face was the look she probably gave to the bottom of her shoe when she stepped in something that she didn't want to step in.

"The library does not open until ten o'clock," she said.

"Exactly right," said the man, who was still puffing a little.

"Mr. Powell," she began.

"Just this once," he said.

"You don't know the meaning of just this once. How many times have you let the Spicer girl in early just this once?"

"For which she will one day thank us when she dedicates her first book to the Marysville Free Public Library." Mr. Powell turned to me. "Perhaps you will do the same. Now, is there anything I can point you toward?"

I shook my head. "I'll look around."

He nodded. "If I were you," he said, "I'd start in the nine hundreds, over there - but that's because I've always been partial to biography."

I didn't go over to the 900s. First I tried the 500s, which looked pretty dull if you ask me, and then over to the 600s, which looked a whole lot duller, and I'm not lying. The 700s were better, and I looked through a bunch of them to see if I could find a picture of the Arctic Tern. But I couldn't.

I guess you're wondering why I didn't go up to the book on the second floor right away. I mean, that's what I was there for, not for some stupid biographies in the 900s. But I think it was because I didn't want Mrs. The-Library-Isn't-Open Merriam's eyes looking at me like I was something on the bottom of her shoe when I went up there. I just didn't.

So I messed around in the 700s looking for the tern until I saw Mr. Powell head over to the front doors to unlock them so the bezillion people who had been waiting outside and probably spreading themselves all over the six steps could come in, and some did, and the library began to hum with talk that carried because of the marble, and Mrs. Merriam adjusted her looped glasses and started checking in returned books and telling people to keep their voices low, and I crossed the hall and went up the stairs.

No one had come up here yet, so the lights hadn't been turned on. But the Arctic Tern was still there, falling. The morning sun that slanted through the windows - they were stained yellow up here too - the sun showed the water darker, and rougher. And the terrified eye.

I put my pretend pencil over the glass case again, and I started drawing the wings. I drew the lines down from the wingtips, and then sharply back up into the body. I tried to fill in the six rows of feathers, keeping them all the same in each row until I came in close, where the feathers faded into the body - dang, they looked like fur. I could feel the wind rush over their tightness. Then, following the line down the bird toward the water, curving it up around his neck a little - no, a little less, and then back down again toward the water, ending at the perfect point of his lower beak, where it stopped being beak and became air.

And then the light snapped on.

Mr. Powell.

Puffing. A lot.

He looked at me, a little surprised. (He had his glasses on, instead of looped across his chest, so he didn't look like too much of a jerk.) "I'm sorry," he said. "I should have turned these lights on sooner."

"It doesn't matter," I said.

He walked over to the glass case and looked down into it. "Sterna arctica," he said.

I looked at him. "Arctic Tern," I said. I didn't want him to think I was a chump, like I didn't know the bird.

"That's right," he said. "There used to be a little card around here somewhere. Isn't it a beauty? You can feel it plummeting through the air."

I didn't say anything.

"I came up to turn the page. I do it once a week. But I can wait, if you want."

I shrugged.

He looked down again at the Sterna bird. "I think I'll wait," he said.

"Who drew this?"

He turned and pointed to the picture on the wall. "He did. John James Audubon. Almost a hundred and fifty years ago." He looked into the glass case. "You want to try drawing it yourself?"

I shook my head. "I don't draw."

"Ever try?"

"I said, 'I don't draw.'"

"So you did. I'll leave the book open to this page, and if you change your mind or want to read about the artist, I'll - "

I turned and left before he could finish. What a jerk. Didn't he hear me say I don't draw? Chumps draw.

Girls with pink bicycle chains draw. I don't draw. Was he old AND deaf?

I hate this town.


I went upstairs. The lights were on and Mr. Powell was standing by the glass case. He looked up at me as I came over. The three blank sheets of paper were still there, and there was another pencil. A light blue.

I moved the sheets over and looked down at the Arctic Tern. Those sharp wings. The neck. The beak. Everything dropping toward the cold, cold sea.

The terrified eye.

I let my hand follow the lines over the glass. I stopped over the eye. My fingers moved.

"I don't think I know your name yet," said Mr. Powell.

"Doug Swieteck."

Mr. Powell held up the black pencil. "Mr. Swieteck, would you like to try to draw it?" he asked.

"I don't know how," I said.

"Then let's begin," said Mr. Powell, and I'm not lying, when I took the black pencil in my fingers, it felt ... spectacular.

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