Sunday, January 20, 2013
The Wednesday Wars (review)
Holling Hoodhood's seventh grade year looks like it's going to be a challenge. His teacher Mrs. Baker isn't his biggest fan and he's not even a troublemaker. But he is Presbyterian while all the other kids are Catholic or Jewish. On Wednesday afternoon, all of his classmates leave for classes at the church or the synagogue, leaving him alone with Mrs. Baker. Needless to say Mrs. Baker is not happy with this arrangement. What do you do with one student for the afternoon?
The Wednesday Wars starts as the story of of their Wednesday afternoon battles. Holling doesn't want to be there. Mrs. Baker doesn't want to be there. Everything changes when Mrs. Baker introduces Holling Shakespeare. She wants to teach Holling about life, he wants to learn Shakespearean curses. It's a win-win situation.
Gary D. Schmidt writes about junior high in a way that feels so authentic. Holling Hoodhood is very much a middle school boy, talking about sports, girls, pranking the teachers, etc, but he's a heartfelt middle school boy. He cares about others and cares about the world around him even if he doesn't realize it himself.
I read this series out of order, starting with the 2nd book Okay For Now but that doesn't actually matter. You can read them in whatever order you like. Both stories have main characters that are so believable, simple small town stories set in the past but that don't feel like a "historical novel." Vietnam is in the background but this isn't a story about the Vietnam War. It's a story about a boy growing up and discovering himself. The timeline just happens to coincide with Vietnam. (Not to say this book ignores the war either, some of the best moments happen between a Vietnamese girl and a lunchlady.)
This book is absolutely hilarious at times, then heartbreaking at others. It took me from laughter to tears more than once. This book is heart-felt, well written and funny. If you're an audiobook reader like me, it's also exceptionally well narrated.