Okay For Now

3rd review of My Best Loved Books: Books that change the Heart and Mind

A Favorite Quote: “Maybe this happens to you every day, but I think it was the first time I could hardly wait to show something that I’d done to someone who would care besides my mother. You know how that feels?”  -Gary D.Schmidt, Okay For Now


Okay For Now written by Gary D. Schmidt

published by: Clarion Books in April 2011


Midwesterner Gary D. Schmidt won Newbery Honor awards for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boys and The Wednesday Wars, two coming-of-age novels about unlikely friends finding a bond. Okay For Now, his latest novel, explores another seemingly improbable alliance, this one between new outsider in town Doug Swieteck and Lil Spicer, the savvy spitfire daughter of his deli owner boss. With her challenging assistance, Doug discovers new sides of himself. Along the way, he also readjusts his relationship with his abusive father, his school peers, and his older brother, a newly returned war victim of Vietnam.

My take on it:

Doug Swieteck is 12 years old, moving to a new town, and leaving the few friends he’s ever had. His family is a mess. He’s the type of boy other kids avoid. Neighborhood adults and teachers label him as the “trouble-maker” everywhere he goes and he’s always struggled in school. How can he possibly turn his life around at this point? What Doug needs is someone who won’t give up on him even when he seems to give up on himself, but that is harder than one might think. I loved this book. It makes you think twice about the way you see others, make judgments about them and then treat them. You never know what someone’s been through to make them who they are. I walked away from this book thinking about how I could make a difference. Also about how we all can make a difference in your own life despite  difficult circumstances. I loved the way Gary Schmidt wrote the voice of Doug. It really felt like I was inside the mind of a troubled 12  year-old boy.

This is a book that I hope my kids will enjoy reading when they are a little older. I have a 9 year-old boy and two younger girls. Maybe I could even read it with them when they’re older and ready! (I have all kinds of dreams about reading certain books with my kiddos.) This is a MUST read!


Code Name Verity

Next on my list of My Best Loved Books: Books that Change the Heart and Mind


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Published by: Disney- Hyperion in May 2012


Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

My Take On It:

This lovely book set in the midst of WWII, takes you into sister-like friendship, women trying to take their role during war and the devastating difficulties faced by a prisoner of war. Verity must tell her story to prolong her life and increase her chances of survival, and the odds are not good. It takes you through the journey of discovering in yourself coward or courage. There is an element of mystery hat unfolds as you read and it surprised me in the end! This book was very touching and it made me cry. I really enjoyed the way this book was written, the style was great.

There are different versions of the cover, but I think this is my favorite. A symbolism that speaks to me of the strongest of bonds between friends.

A Favorite Quote: “Von Linden really should know me well enough by now to realise that I am not going to face my execution without a fight. Or with anything remotely resembling dignity.”  Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity

Teachers, Librarians and Authors: Let’s Work Together To Make More Author Visits Happen by Polly Holyoke

I loved this post from Nerdy Book Club. Polly Holyoke talks about her excitement to  go out and visit schools after writing her first children’s book, the challenges that she hadn’t expected, and the proactive way she made it work!

Nerdy Book Club

polly holyokeAfter I received The Call and sold my first children’s book, I was ready to head right out the door and start doing school visits. I’d been a middle school teacher for many years, and I knew there was nothing more magical than an enthusiastic author sharing with students the joy he or she takes in creating stories.  I couldn’t wait to share my tales of getting kissed by a dolphin, learning oceanography, and eating sea urchins to research my Neptune books.

I was dismayed when many of the authors I asked about school visits shook their heads and told me dolefully that funds for author visits were drying up. Yet this past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit eighty different schools, and every one of those schools paid me.

So, how did I do it? Well, I do have a teaching background, and I lucked out big…

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Inside Out & Back Again

To follow up with my previous post where I listed 7 of my Best loved Books that change the heart and mind here is my review of Inside Out & Back Again


Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Published by: Harper Collins Inc. in February 2011


No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

My Take On It: 

As Americans do we generally think that people coming here for refuge should “feel so lucky”? It was interesting to see this transition through the eyes of a little girl whose whole life is changing so dramatically. Ha` and her family are trying to learn English, fit in, and make their living in Alabama in the 1970s. Everything is different now. She is homesick for Saigon, worried about her father and adapting to a new culture. There are those who will be kind, but will the children at this new school be kind to her? How will her family endure the new life that the war has forced them into?

Most likely none of us will never go through the experience of being a refugee in a new country. That is why this book is on my list of those that change your heart and mind. It gives us a chance to see through new eyes and makes us think about what it might be like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Most of the time when that happens we think about ourselves and want to change accordingly or be more considerate.

This book was a fast read at about 208 pages, and refreshing for a little change, as it is written in verse! It has a bit of a diary feel as well. It is fictional, but based a little bit on the life of the author, Thanhha Lai, who with her family fled Vietnam and landed in Alabama, which I thought was very interesting. It won a NewBerry Award in 2012 among other awards and nominations. It would be a great book to read with your older kids. I read this back in 2013 and haven’t read it with my 8 year old as of yet, but maybe in the next year or so!

My Best Loved Books : Books that Change the Heart and Mind

There is power in books. You’ve heard this before, but I’ll say it again and add my testimony to that of others. Reading is good for us for many different reasons. It is an important tool in learning for young and old. It keeps our mind sharp and it forces us to use our imaginations in a way we don’t have to when we watch a movie or television. And what is best? It’s entertaining!

I’ve been known to stay up …let’s just say way past my bedtime. I’ve made deals with myself such as: I can read one page for every 10 items of laundry I fold, because I just can’t put the book down! A good mystery keeps you trying to work out the puzzle for yourself. A good adventure gets your heart beating and leaves your thirsting for the next page. Books can also make us feel empathy, make us examine ourselves and resolve to learn and change. Most stories have a moral. Not all of these are obvious, but I believe that there is something to learn from each one whether it is a sappy romance, a Y.A. vampire series, or a fantastic historical fiction.

These are the thoughts that provoked me to write this particular post. It will be one in a many post series that I’ll end up writing.


So this is a list of some of the most truly touching stories that I have read. They’re the kind that brought sad or happy tears to my eyes (sometimes both), or made my mind grow wider with thoughts. They made me look at things from a different perspective. They are not in any particular order, of course, there is no way they could be! They each bring something unique to the table.


Okay for Now – by Gary D. Schmidt

The Help – by Kathryn Stockett

Ender’s Game: Speaker for the Dead – by Orson Scott Card

Code Name Verity – by Elizabeth Wein

Inside Out and Back Again – by Thanhha Lai

Wonder -by R.J. Palacio

A long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story – by Linda Sue Park

I’ll be posting some short reviews on these books in the next few days! I know that there are so many great books out there. What are some of your favorites?