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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.

Slob by Ellen Potter

07th September 2009

It starts out as a simple story.  Owen is being bullied at school because of his weight, and can’t figure out how to make it stop.  Just when you think you’ve got the story all figured out, Potter gradually begins revealing little tidbits about Owen’s life, and her novel becomes something else altogether.  This was an excellent book.  It took me by surprise at every turn, and left me completely satisfied at the end.

This was a fantastic book.  Yolanda, her brother Andrew and her mother move from inner-city Chicago to Michigan.  There, Yolanda must re-establish her reputation as a tough, not to be messed with girl.  She also has to look out for her little brother Andrew, who communicates to the world with his harmonica.  But when Yolanda is busy with a new friend and Andrew is harmed, she know that it is up to her to make things right again.

There are some fantastic themes developed in this book: Friendship, family, loyalty, honesty, communication, love.  Through it all, Yolanda is convinced that her brother is a genius, and she will stop at nothing to prove it to the world.  This would be a great read-aloud in a fourth or fifth grade classroom.

Nineteen Minutes: A novelA high school student, bullied for years by his classmates, opens fire at school and kills 10 people.  It’s a tragedy that doesn’t just happen in stories.  In her newest book, Picoult looks at the events that precede and follow a school shooting.  As she always does, Picoult examines the shooting from multiple perspectives, including that of the shooter, the shooter’s parents, the shooting victims, their parents, the lawyers and the police.  This book wasn’t quite as predictable as some of her recent books have been.  I was really drawn in to her examination of the effects of bullying, what schools are and are not doing to protect kids, and what the desire to be popular will do to a child.  Nineteen Minutes illustrates the many dangers that our children face each day, and reading it made me so thankful that God is watching over my family, and is leading us through the dangers and hard times that we face.

The first book in this trilogy, Stepping on the Cracks, is narrated by Margaret. Margaret and her best friend Elizabeth both have brothers fighting in World War II. The girls are not only worried about their brothers, but also about the school bully, Gordon Smith. Gordy makes the girls’ lives miserable. When the girls find out a secret about Gordy and his family, they try to use it to their advantage at first, but are quickly drawn into trying to help Gordy.

Following My Own Footsteps takes up where the first book left off–this time with Gordy as narrator. Gordy, his mom and siblings have moved to live with his grandmother. Under her care, Gordy begins to work harder in school, and even makes a friend. Then Gordy’s dad returns, and Gordy must decide what to do.

In As Ever, Gordy, Gordy returns to his hometown to live with his big brother and family. Everyone remembers Gordy as both a failure and the class bully, and that’s how they continue to treat him. Gordy soon falls back into his old ways and although his feelings for his old enemy Elizabeth have changed, he doesn’t know how to change his behavior.

The best part of this trilogy was the way the narrator switched from Margaret to Gordy. In the first book, you sympathize with the girls’ point of view, and even though you feel bad for Gordy, you don’t really like him much. He’s just too mean, and he reminds you of every bully you’ve ever known. But once Gordy begins to tell his story, you immediately understand why he acts the way he does. The change in Gordy’s character is all the more understandable and real, because it’s seen from two points of view.