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.

3 Adventurers Who Defied Human Limits

Are you impressed by those who thru-hike thousands of miles? Then, what do you think about these adventurers? Click on each name to see a brief review of their books, which are so much more than inspiring.

J. Robert Harris backpacked–often solo–on treks many would consider impossible.
Kate Harris rode a bicycle on a most incredible journey.
Julie Bradley sailed to places few would even consider–or survive.

Free Country: What a Ride!

Wearing just underwear emblazoned with the British flag, George Mahood and his buddy left Land’s End in southwest England without a penny, determined to bicycle to the northern tip of Great Britain. They would rely on the generosity and good hearts of the people, from pub owners and accommodation hosts to the police.

They would not solicit cash, but would accept meals, rooms, clothes, old bicycles and whatever else they needed. They would offer to wash dishes and do other work. They were out to prove that people are good.

If you have not read a book by George Mahood, you are in for a treat. His writing in Free Country is even more entertaining than his story’s premise and is powered by humor and down-to-earth human touches.

I doubt it will be the last George Mahood book you read.

Costa Rica: Explorer Searches Jungle for His Lost Son

“In the predawn hours of July 10, 2014, the son of legendary Alaskan explorer Roman Dial walked alone into the untracked rain forest of Costa Rica’s remote Pacific Coast. “I’m planning on doing 4 days in the jungle,” he wrote his father before leaving, “it should be difficult to get lost forever.” Then he vanished… (From the book cover)

Roman Dial raised his son Cody to be a fearless adventurer, but when the 27-year-old’s heart led to a solo venture in a remote Costa Rican jungle, his father felt responsible. Cody hadn’t checked in for days, then weeks, then months. Was he lost? Had he been murdered? Had he been bitten by a poisonous snake? Was he being held captive?

In Costa Rica, Dial pleads for help from local and national authorities as well as American and Alaskan officials. He and friends comb the jungle for clues, finding deadly snakes as they blazed their way. He investigates Cody’s last hours and days before his disappearance. Meanwhile, he imagines that his son will walk out of the rain forest.

In The Adventurer’s Son, author Roman Dial recounts Cody’s upbringing and their journeys together in Alaska, Borneo and Bhutan. His absorbing narrative of the Costa Rican search will keep you on edge until the moving conclusion.