Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Okay for Now Audio

Okay for Now Audio

Gary D. Schmidt
For ages 12 and up
Unabridged audiobook (CD)
Performed/read by: Lincoln Hoppe
Listening Library , 2011   ISBN: 978-0307915894

Doug Swieteck has never had a particularly happy life. On the few occasions when something good has happened to him, they very quickly turn sour. For example, once Joe Pepitone, the baseball player, gave Doug his cap. The cap was the first thing Doug had owned that had not belonged to “some other Sweiteck” before him. Doug managed to keep the hat a secret for four and a half months before his big brother found it and took it. Doug never got the hat back. Doug is used to bad things happening to him, because they are always happening.

So, when Doug’s father announces that they are moving so that he can work at the Ballard Paper Mill in Marysville in upstate New York, Doug, his brother, and his mother pack up without protesting. They all know that there is no point protesting. If they do say something they may end up feeling the back of Mr. Swieteck’s hand.

Doug is fully prepared to hate Marysville, and in the beginning, there certainly is little to commend it. The house they are renting is “The Dump,” and Doug is sure that life in the small town is going to be worse than life on “the Island” had been. Then Doug sees some of Audubon’s paintings of birds in a folio that is on display in the public library. The pictures astonish and delight him. He has never seen pictures like these before, and he itches to try drawing the birds for himself. One of the librarians, Mr. Powell, offers to show Doug how to draw, but Doug thinks that only “chumps” and girls draw. Doug Swieteck does not draw.

Over time, Mr. Powell and Audubon’s extraordinary pictures get to Doug, and he puts pencil to paper. It turns out that he is a gifted artist. Doug spends many hours at the library learning basic drawing concepts that Mr. Powell teaches him. Doug also gets a job as a delivery boy for Spicer’s Deli, and he makes friends with Lil Spicer, a feisty girl who has beautiful green eyes.

Though there are some bright moments in his life now, life at home is still awful. The only decent person in Doug’s family is his mother. His father is an abusive bully, and Doug’s “jerk brother” seems to be following his father’s example.  In fact, this “jerk” seems to be determined to become a “hoodlum” with a “twisted criminal mind.”

Doug is just starting to make some friends, when Spicer’s Deli is broken into and it is robbed. Doug’s brother is immediately suspected, though the police aren’t able to prove that he is actually the thief. In no time at all, the people Doug encounters start to treat him as if he is a “hoodlum in training.” It seems as if all his efforts to overcome his grim background are a waste of time. Nothing is going to change for the better because something always comes along that spoils it all.

In this funny, poignant, and incredibly powerful audiobook, Gary D. Schmidt takes us into the world of a teenage boy who somehow manages to rise above his miserable home life. His newly discovered love of art, the new people in his life who actually care about him, and his realization that he has something to offer the world, helps him to open doors that he never even knew existed.

Listeners will find it impossible not to be moved by Doug’s honest voice, and by the journey he makes that changes his life forever.