Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Wednesday Wars - Gary D. Schmidt

Summary:  Holling Hoodhood is really in for it.

He's just started seventh grade with Mrs. Baker, a teacher he knows is out to get him.  Why else would she make him read Shakespeare...outside of class?

The year is 1967, and everyone else has bigger things to worry about.  There's Vietnam for one thing, and then there's the family business.  As far as Holling's father is concerned, nothing is more important than the family business.  In fact, all the Hoodhoods must be on their best behavior at all times.  The success of Hoodhood and Associates depends on it.  But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has Mrs. Baker to contend with? (Summary from back of the book and image from http://www.sonlight.com/)

My Review:  First of all, Holling?  Holling Hoodhood?  Weirdest name ever.  The Wednesday Wars has a paradoxical feel: disjointed yet fluid.  The writing is superb, especially for the level it's written.  The character is relatable and yet not.  He pulls off some amazing feats and somehow manages to get himself in the worst situations (like having the 8th grade bullies after him or having to wear a fairy costume with yellow feathers on the rear) and comes out unscathed.  What makes Holling so relatable is his family, the pressures he feels there, his humanity, and his humility.

As a former seventh grade teacher (eighth grade isn't that different from seventh), I thought his teacher was fantastic!  I covet her situation, in that I'd love to have students who could grasp Shakespeare on their own.  She was strict, hard, but compassionate.  I loved how he started out thinking she hated him, but then grew to understand her, and even got to the point where he could talk to her more easily than other adults in his life.  From the perspective of a teacher I know this to be true.  Many times students at this age come in thinking teachers are the devil, and then as the year progresses they learn to trust you and even think of you as more than a robot who sleeps in her closet at the school each night.

There are plenty of conflicts which drive the story; man vs. man, with his father; man vs. self, with his innter turmoil; man vs. world, with the 8th grade bullies, and the list goes on.  Much of Holling's life revolves around his ability to get through difficult situations--a fantastic message for the middle level reader.  And Schmidt does an eloquent job of creating compassion in the reader, rooting for Holling to succeed.

Lastly, I should mention how much Shakespeare was woven in.  The reader isn't expected to have read Shakespeare, but if you have, it adds another rich dimension.  I'd highly recommend this to anyone.

Rating: 4 Stars

Sum it up:  A seventh grade boy's journey through the turmoil that is middle school with the backdrop of the Vietnam war.

1 comment:

Mary said...

I've had this book on my TBR shelf for ages...thanks for the inspiring review! My 13 y.o. son just finished Schmidt's latest and liked it a lot.
Mary A Book A Day


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