Title: The Wednesday Wars
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Publisher/Year: Clarion, 2007
Genre: YA Historial Fiction
Format: Audio Book
Source: Purchased from Audible
Date Read: Spring 2009
Of all of the books I’ve read over the past five or six years, Holling Hoodhood is probably one of the most memorable protagonists I’ve come across. Though I fell in love with his buddy, Doug Swieteck, in the 2011 companion novel, Okay For Now, Holling Hoodhood will forever be one of my favorite literary kids.
The book is set in Long Island during the 1967-1968 school year. When the rest of his classmates are released early on Wednesdays for either Hebrew class or Catechism, Protestant seventh grader Holling Hoodhood must spend the afternoons alone with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Holling is convinced that Mrs. Baker must HATE him because she makes him read Shakespeare plays. All. Year. Long.
On one level of the novel, we watch Holling mature throughout the school year. He has various hilarious misadventures involving cream puffs, rats, baseball, cross-country running, and a pair of yellow tights with feathers on the
you-know-where butt. Schmidt uses Shakespeare themes parallel to Hollings’ life, and this all comes together quite well. Hollings’ ups and downs are both laugh-out-loud hilarious and also emotionally realistic. Schmidt successfully created a story with kid-appeal and significant depth, which is probably why the novel earned the 2008 Newbery Honor Medal.
The second level of the novel takes readers on an almost Forrest Gump-esque trek through history in the 1967-1968 school year. The book is divided into chapters by month in the school year, and the tumultuous times can be felt in every chapter behind the scenes. It covers the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., flower children, Vietnam, Kennedy, and air raid drills. For that reasons, it’s a middle school teacher’s dream — one of those rare books that combines history, literature, and humor.
FINAL GRADE: A It’s a quiet novel, to be honest, and one that does not seem to get the attention it deserves. Five years after the book was released, I don’t seem to hear much about it anymore. I would love to see more middle grades teachers (and teacher educators!) taking notice of Schmidt’s work and introducing it to students, whether it be The Wednesday Wars or Okay for Now. I highly recommend this as a read-aloud or audiobook, too. It would be the perfect book for a family car trip!
Have you read any of Gary D. Schmidt’s amazing novels? Thoughts?