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Schmidt has done it again. He wrote a book about a seventh grade bully that I, a 30-something mother of 2, could not put down. Somehow, Schmidt managed to tie the Vietnam War, an alcoholic father, the Apollo space missions, Audubon’s Birds of America, a playwright, a grocery store and the library into an amazing story of friendship, overcoming obstacles, and standing up for yourself. If you (and your kids) need to pick just one book to read this summer, choose Okay For Now.

I always enjoy Schmidt’s books, but The Wednesday Wars was absolutely wonderful. Schmidt begins with a simple enough story–Holling Hoodhood is convinced that his 7th grade English teacher hates him. But then, Schmidt takes this simple plot and pulls in Shakespeare, the Vietnam War, 8th grade bullies, architecture, cross country, baseball, parents, sisters, first dates and so much more into a fabulous tale that spans Holling’s 7th grade year. This is a must read for parents, students and teachers alike.

And a small plug for my alma mater: Schmidt, who is also a winner of the Newbery Honor for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.

First Boy by Gary Schmidt

21st March 2007

This is one of those books that just feels good to read.  The good guys are rewarded.  The bad guys are punished.  Even though some sad things happen, everything works out in the end.  I usually enjoy Schmidt’s books, and this one was no exception.  Cooper is a 14 year old boy, who is left running his family’s dairy farm by himself after his grandparents both die.  Then some strange things start happening, and Cooper must learn who he can trust, and who his true family is.  If you enjoy E.L. Konigsberg’s books, you will also enjoy this book, as it is written with a similar feel.

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Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (Newbery Honor Book)Turner Buckminster moves to a small town in Maine, where his father is the new pastor. In spite of the beauty of the town, Turner is miserable in his role as “the minister’s boy.” Then he meets Lizzie, who lives on nearby Malaga Island. The islanders are former slaves who have very little money, and the townspeople wish they would leave. Turner and Lizzie become good friends, in spite of their differences. Soon the townspeople are plotting to send away the islanders, and Turner must decide how to help.

This book was written by a Calvin prof-Gary D. Schmidt. I generally enjoy his books, and this was no exception. There were some “new-ageish” components involving whales and the ocean, which seemed quite important to the author and the main character. I choose to skim those sections and focus more on the history of Malaga Island and on how Turner changed as he learned to stand up for what is right.