Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


The Healing Power of Art

Books where troubled kids find solace in art always resonate with me. OKAY FOR NOW by Gary D. Schmidt had an unusual angle. Audubon prints displayed in the library captivate fourteen-year-old, Doug Swieteck. The author must be an artist or art historian himself; his descriptions of the compositional elements in each Audubon print read like art lessons. In fact, one of the librarians teaches Doug how to draw based on the prints. Each chapter begins with a different Audubon print and the visuals weave into the overall theme.

This would be a great book to study for writing craft. I was in awe of how the author created an emotionally complex story and tied every last detail together in surprising ways. This made the book deeply satisfying. I'll include the synopsis from the author's website:

"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."


Lauren said...

Thanks for this post Christy and the copied synopsis. I too love books where art heals or inspires the main character. I had no idea Audobon's drawings of birds were part of this story. Personally, if I had designed the cover, I would have included that somehow-somewhere-- it would have certainly lured this reader sooner to the book-- but thanks to you, I will check this book out!

Edie Hemingway said...

I loved this book, too, and those art lessons through the Audobon prints were a huge eye-opener for me in the basic concepts of design! I agree with Lauren that the Audobon prints should have somehow been included in the cover art.

Christy said...

Yes, kind of like the first cover David showed--this one doesn't really inform the reader about the book. Both are engaging covers, but misleading.

Stephanie said...

I loved The Wednesday Wars and have been wanting to read this one:)

Mark said...

I remember seeing this book a while back, but I forgot to put it on my list. Thanks for the reminder, sounds like a seriously great read!