Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

When this book first came out, a kid being forced - and enjoying - to enjoy Shakespeare, I was intrigued. And when I started reading it, I was very happy to find it was also quite funny!

Holling Hoodhood is the only kid in his seventh grade class who doesn't go either to Hebrew School nor to the Catholic church for Catechism on Wednesday afternoons. That means he has to spend the afternoon with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, and he's convinced she hates him. She proves it by assigning him to read Shakespeare plays, although after reading The Tempest, Holling thinks her evil plan has backfired because she can't have known about all the cursing and violence in the play, and Holling liked it. Over the course of the year, Holling gets to like Shakespeare, acts in a play, and deals with multiple complications of being in seventh grade (escaped classroom rats, death threats from a friend's older brother, and diagramming sentences.) Meanwhile at home his ambitious father's architectural business comes ahead of everything else, his older sister's liberal politics are causing dinnertime to be tense, and he's not sure if Meryl Lee likes him or not.

I loved the relationship between Holling and Mrs. Baker. The year is 1967 and her husband is off fighting in Vietnam. In fact from some clues in the book, I think she's about 31 years old. She's always proper, no one really knows how stressed and worried she is although there are clues to that regard, too. I loved that Mrs Baker is a very three-dimensional. In fact, I couldn't think of any other children's book with such a well-drawn teacher character. Mrs. Baker obviously sees potential in Holling, and she also sees some of the issues he's facing (a self-absorbed father, no one at home particularly paying attention to him) and she steps in from time to time to help out. But not in a way that makes him feel badly or makes him open to ridicule.

Throughout the school year Holling grows and starts to understand himself and the world a little more. The Shakespeare plays help him with understand everything from love to power to magic. Mrs. Baker actually becomes a friend although he doesn't quite realize it. It one point, he was shocked to realize that teachers have lives outside of the classroom. In fact, the lunch room lady, janitor, and principal all become characters in Holling's life, and all help him with growing up. Holling is a good kid, smart, well-meaning, and funny. I really enjoyed spending time with him. I'm going to keep an eye out for Okay for Now too, about one of Holling's friends.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I bought this book at a Borders GOOB sale.


Julie P. said...

I have heard that this book is fantastic. I think Bermudaonion might have reviewed it awhile back. OKAY FOR NOW is supposed to be fantastic. I should definitely check these out!

Chelle said...

Kids at the library have mentioned this book to me. I should give it a try! I didn't know it was connected to Okay for Now and have been interested in that title, too. Thanks for the review!

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

One of my favorite books ever! As is Okay for Know!! Both stellar.

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Oops! Okay for NOW. Duh.