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About the Author-
Gary D. Schmidt is the best-selling author of many books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor and Printz Honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and the Newbery Honor book The Wednesday Wars. He is a professor of English at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- Ms. Johnson - I liked this book even more than Wednesday Wars! This book isn't really a sequel, but carries on the story of one of the characters in Wednesday Wars. Now we really understand why Doug Swieteck is the way he is in Wednesday Wars. The book made me sad and it made me happy. It made me want to keep reading to see how life would turn out for Doug. Life has many ups and downs for him and as he says just when things start going good, then they seem to turn bad. Somehow, Doug manages to get through it all and you understand that you can't judge a book (or a person) by their cover. Really interesting use of Doug learning to draw Audubon Birds as a part of the story - this may sound boring, but it isn't.
February 21, 2011
This companion to The Wednesday Wars follows the formula of Schmidt's Newbery Honor winner with less success. Doug Swieteck, a prankster in the previous book, has graver problems than Holling Hoodhood did, making the interplay of pathos and slapstick humor an uneasy fit. In summer 1968, the Swietecks leave Long Island for the Catskills, where Doug's father has found work. Doug's mother (like Holling's) is kind but ineffectual; Mr. Swieteck is a brutish jerk. His abuse of his three sons, one of whom is currently in Vietnam, happens mostly offstage, but one episode of unthinkable cruelty is recounted as a flashback to explain why Doug refuses to take off his shirt in gym class. Doug does make two key friends: Lil, whose father owns the deli for which Doug becomes delivery boy, and the less fleshed-out Mr. Powell, a librarian who instantly sees Doug's potential as an artist. There are lovely moments, but the late addition of an implausible subplot in which Lil, who has never shown an interest in acting, is drafted for a role in a Broadway play, seems desultory considering the story's weightier elements. Ages 10–14.
Starred review from April 1, 2011
Gr 6-9-When his blowhard dad loses his job, Doug Swieteck has to say so long to his friend Holling and Camillo Junior High and get used to things in stupid Marysville, NY. His oldest brother's in Vietnam, his middle brother's still a hoodlum, his mom is quiet but enduring, and his only salvation is weekly visits to the public library, where the librarian is teaching him to draw by using models from a volume of Audubon's Birds of America. Also not too bad is Lil, the daughter of the grocer who gives him a delivery job. Fans of The Wednesday Wars (Clarion, 2007) will find that this companion novel has more in common with it than just a charismatic narrator and pitch-perfect details of daily life in the 1960s. In addition to a mix of caring adults and comically unreasonable authority figures, Schmidt also revisits baseball, theatrical escapades, and timely preoccupations like the Moon landing and the Vietnam War. But Doug's blue-collar story is much darker than Holling's in the earlier novel, and, as a narrator, he's more psychologically complex. Readers know right upfront that his father is abusive, but for a while Doug keeps the depth and magnitude-among other secrets-hidden from those around him. He grows to realize a lot about his family's relationships through study of Audubon's painted birds (one plate is featured at the start of each chapter), and the volume itself becomes a metaphor for his journey from fragmented to whole self. Schmidt manages a hard balance of relatable youth-is-hard humor and nuanced family trauma, though the mix of antics and realism is a bit Shakespearean. Readers will miss Doug and his world when they're done, and will feel richer for having experienced his engaging, tough, and endearing story.-Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA
Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
March 1, 2011
It's 1968. The Vietnam War and Apollo 11 are in the background, and between a war in a distant land and a spacecraft heading to the moon, Doug Swieteck starts a new life in tiny Marysville, N.Y. He hates "stupid Marysville," so far from home and his beloved Yankee Stadium, and he may have moved away, but his cruel father and abusive brothers are still with him. Readers of the Newbery Honor-winning The Wednesday Wars (2007) will remember Doug, now less edgy and gradually more open to the possibilities of life in a small town. Each chapter opens with a print of a John James Audubon painting, and Mr. Powell, the town librarian, teaches Doug to paint and see the world as an artist. He meets pretty Lillian Spicer, just the feisty friend Doug needs, and a whole cast of small-town characters opens Doug to what he might be in the world. This is Schmidt's best novel yet--darker than The Wednesday Wars and written with more restraint, but with the same expert attention to voice, character and big ideas. By the end of this tale, replete with allusions to Our Town, Doug realizes he's pretty happy in Marysville, where holding hands with the green-eyed girl--and a first kiss--rival whatever might be happening on the moon. (Historical fiction. 10-14)
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