For This Kid, the Worst Bullies Are at Home

I loved this book so much that I sent a copy to each of my three adult sons. To be honest, I wished they were kids again and I could read it aloud with them, like I did with countless stories when they were growing up with me.

Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay for Now tells the story of Doug Swieteck, 14, who has just moved to Marysville, New York.

“I hate this town,” he says. But maybe he actually detests a father whose abuse made me want to scream, an older brother who stole Doug’s most treasured possession, and an oldest brother who used to beat him up before being sent to war in Vietnam.

Doug Swieteck’s voice is a masterful creation that will tickle your funny bone and touch your heart. This book is funny, very funny, but life for this boy is hardly fun. He finds refuge and the artist inside him at the town library, where a rare book of Audubon bird plates speaks to him like nothing else in his life does.

Except for Lil Spicer, a girl whose words would repel most everyone. Except Doug Swieteck. Doug gets a delivery job at Lil’s dad’s store, leading the boy to more tests and quirky discoveries. His oldest brother returns from Vietnam a changed man in ways that made me wish I had not judged him so harshly. His story enriches a book already full of engrossing characters and experiences in Doug’s life.

Doug Swieteck sees so much more than anyone around him, other than Lil, a librarian, and his dad’s boss. I wanted him to yell out, speak his mind, let it be known he would not stand for how others treated him. But he shows remarkable restraint, making me think he knew it was best. But, in the end, Doug Swieteck is blindsided in a way that I did not see coming.

Newberry Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt writes on a 1953 Royal typewriter and his works are timeless masterpieces, written for kids, young adults, and big kids like me.

Okay for Now is even better than the earlier accompanying book, The Wednesday Wars, which is no small achievement. I read several other Schmidt books and was especially drawn to Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. His stories grab me like no other author has done for years.

The President Becomes a Superhero

What if the world wide web disappeared? And all its data on every device was gone? Your bank accounts. The power grid. Medical records. Everything online. Backups erased. No way to bring any of it back.

In The President is Missing, President Jonathan Duncan goes undercover in a desperate attempt to save the world from cyberterrorists.

Impossible? In Bill Clinton’s and James Patterson’s thriller, the plot has enough plausibility to make the book a page turner.

The former president created the leader he wished he could be. War hero. James Bond-like tactician. A man who could not be distracted from his purpose.

Duncan battles the death of his wife, a nagging disease, and a speaker of the House who plots to have him removed from office. The Russians are bad guys and the plot involves the Saudi royal family. There is also an enemy within, a traitor in the president’s inner circle.

If you are a James Patterson fan, you will recognize the storytelling style. I was drawn to the idea that the president of the United States could transform himself into an unrecognizable character who could use his or her talents to do good outside of the political world.

A president by day. A superhero by night?

The Katy: America’s Premier Rail Trail

Good fortune greeted us on Missouri’s Katy Trail today. After we rode our hybrids on the prettiest, most shaded section from Rocheport to McBaine and back, Katy granted us an exclusive interview.

Question: How did you get your name?
Katy: I wish it was more romantic, but I am named after the stock exchange symbol of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad. It was KT. Hope you like it!

Q: How long are you?

A: 240 miles. I am the longest hiking, biking and equestrian trail in the United States.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a trail?
A: Fame. People from all over the world come to see me. It all started when I was inducted into the Rail Trail Hall of Fame.

Q: How can people meet you?

A: Easy. I almost stretch across the entire state. I start in Machens and go west to Clinton. But some people first see me in Clinton. People also meet me at 26 trailheads.

Q: Could I share a compliment?

A: Why sure.

Q: You may be mostly compact rock, but you are almost as smooth as pavement.

A: Aw, thanks. Actually, I hear that even from riders with road bicycles. I think wider tires work better, though.

Katy: May I ask you a question?

Go right ahead.

Katy: What are your favorite things about me?

Let me think; there are so many. You are mostly level and there are great views of the Missouri River. You pass through places with food and rooms if I want to spend the night. I even passed a beer garden today.

Katy: Stop! You’re making me thirsty!

Previous rail-trail posts, with photos by Sue (as always):

Make Tracks on the Best Rail Trails in America. (Review of guidebook)

The Ohio Rail Trail: What a Ride!

Ohio Rail Trail: What a Bike Ride!

The Rail Trail Hall of Fame book (click for earlier review) led us to a campground near Lebanon, Ohio, where we parked our trailer on May 24 and rode our bikes on another of the USA’s top 33 rail trails.

The Little Miami Scenic Trail was our favorite of our cross-country journey. The fourth-longest paved trail in the country, it runs 78 miles from Cincinnati to Springfield, almost entirely in the shade and near-level as it follows the Little Miami River. We started in Morrow and rode north to Caesar Creek State Park.

The multi-use path exudes tranquility, especially on weekdays. It travels through several state parks, charming villages and places to pause for cool or hot drinks. It is part of a 340-mile network of paved trails that makes Ohio a great state to explore on two wheels or on two feet.

The Little Miami is part of the North Country Trail (click for earlier post), the nation’s longest hiking path, which we had walked in Wisconsin.

In case you are wondering, we are riding the same Giant steel-frame hybrid bikes that Sue’s parents rode in Europe and around America. They are sturdy and reliable, but weigh 40 pounds, which adds to the work load a bit.

We have used the TrailLink and AllTrails apps throughout our trip for hiking and biking guidance.