The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Review by Lauren
Source: library copy; all opinions are my own
Official Summary: Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.
Review: The Wednesday Wars was another book for my children's literature class, and after reading it, I can definitely see why it's an award-winning novel. This book is one that could easily be read by those in middle or high school. Holling is in the seventh grade but he doesn't sound terribly young and the events in and around his life could be understood by a variety of ages.
As the summary states, this book takes place during the Vietnam War. Besides that though, this book could take place today. Holling deals with everyday situations like teachers and family. For his family, his dad is pretty strict and doesn't want his children causing trouble, especially if it might upset someone who could be a potential client (Holling's dad is an architect). I could understand Holling's dad being worried about business and wanting to leave his son with something successful in the future, but he was difficult to like. I appreciated the growing relationship between Holling and his sister, Heather, though.
"Holling," she said, "I was so afraid I wouldn't find you."
"I was standing right here, Heather," I said. "I'll always be standing right here."
Obviously one of the biggest relationships Holling has in the book is with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. She doesn't seem to like Holling much in the beginning, though I suppose it's more that she has to find something for just one child to do while the other kids go to church or temple on Wednesday afternoon. Eventually, she decides to teach Holling Shakespeare, which Holling does grow to enjoy and he finds similarities between the plays and characters in his own life. I thought this was enjoyable, because I do like Shakespeare, but even if you don't, you shouldn't worry about that! Shakespeare is mentioned throughout, but the book is so much more than that.
Check this out soon if you haven't read it already. I think you'll find something to enjoy.