Author Biography: David Tiefenthaler (1976 – still alive) is a middle school teacher by day, a busy dad during the afternoon and evening, and an author and illustrator by night. During his illustrious career as a professional educator, Mr. Tiefenthaler has taught math, science, social studies, and language arts at the middle school level. As a long term substitute in Milwaukee, he also taught high school biology, chorus, and special education. By far, his worst performance was as a chorus teacher. He currently teaches English Language Arts at the 7th grade level, and that is his favorite subject to teach.
David was born in Flint, Michigan, but after only one year there, he moved to Wisconsin. He’s been living in Southeastern Wisconsin ever since. In the summer months, when he isn’t writing or illustrating, his hobbies include fishing, playing baseball, working out, spending way too much time on social media, and running 12-mile obstacle courses for fun.
O.K. is Great Press Release Summary: O.K. is Great is Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets The Sandlot. In this illustrated novel, a 7th grade boy, Otis Kalshwonkee, is on a quest for greatness. Otis, more commonly known as O.K. on account of his initials, moves to a new house and starts at a new school. His goal is to be great, but at what, he’s not so sure. He envies his athletic older brother and musically gifted younger sister. O.K.’s father suggests running, but that would require some hard work. O.K. figures he will find something that he is great at naturally. He sees the school records in gym class for the mile run, the shuttle run, pull-ups, and sit-ups. Standing in the way of his greatness are the mean girls who bully him constantly, his jock of a brother, his perfectly perfect sister, his naughty dog, a no-nonsense teacher, and probably his biggest hurdle, himself.
Questions and Answers:
How did you get the idea to write O.K. is Great?
I wrote a screenplay for fun, and I didn’t really know what to do with it when it was finished. After showing this work to some of my fellow teachers, one of them told me I should try writing a book. That night, I came up with the idea of a kid who was just okay at everything, and his name was Otis Kalshwonkee, or O.K. It took off from there. Less than three months later, I completed my first draft of the middle grade novel/illustrated book, O.K. is Great.
As a middle grade teacher, I felt there is a large gap for the reluctant readers, especially the middle grade boys. Most main characters have these amazing abilities or some fantastical backstory. I wanted to write a story about a normal kid in a normal family experiencing the same kinds of things that middle grade students go through every day. There’s a lot of laughter and pain in day to day life of a typical middle grade student.
Is it a topic that a lot of people can easily relate to?
The main topic is how hard work can pay off. In my experience as a middle grade teacher, kids think that greatness comes naturally. I wanted to show the value of hard work and delayed gratification. Now, the book isn’t preachy. Far from it. I didn’t want to come off like that, but I did want to show that to achieve something worthwhile requires time and effort.
Does the book shed new light on a common issue?
Although it isn’t a main topic in the book, this book does cover the issue of cyber-bullying. Unfortunately, middle grade students use and abuse social media. I wanted to touch on this topic to show the very real ramifications of using social media inappropriately.
What is the setting for O.K. is Great?
It is set in present time in the heartland of America. I’ve lived in Wisconsin for pretty much my whole life, and so that was the natural backdrop for my story.
As the author, do you have a unique background different from most other authors?
There’s a danger in stereotyping any group of people, but I think I’m a little different because of my athletic background, and my preferences as a reader. My favorite sport is baseball, and I played that for years and years. I wasn’t a professional. Not even close, but I did play on my high school team, and then played in several amateur baseball leagues in Southeastern Wisconsin until my late 30’s. I was more talented at running than I was at baseball. I ran cross-country and track at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Because I was a bit of a sports nut, as a kid I read the sports page of the newspaper every day. My mother wanted me to read books, but I resisted. She was a crafty one though, and she got me hooked on comic books and graphic novels. That’s part of the reason I included illustrations in O.K. is Great.
Five Star Review from Readers’ Favorite
David Tiefenthaler’s preteen novel, O.K. Is Great, is funny, inspirational and exciting all at once. Tiefenthaler’s illustrations make this story feel like a graphic novel, even if it does have more words than one normally finds in that genre, and the drawings work so incredibly well with the plot… Click here for the full review.