Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review: "The Wednesday Wars" by Gary D. Schmidt

It is 1967 and Holling Hoodhood has just started 7th grade.  As you probably remember, there is a lot to figure out in 7th grade - friends, family, school, and pretty much how to make it through if not on top.  The Vietnam War is happening in the background and affects people he knows.  All the while, Holling, as the lone Presbyterian, has to spend every Wednesday afternoon alone with his teacher while the rest of the class goes to either Catholic School or Hebrew School.  So to pass the time, Mrs. Baker teaches him Shakespeare.  Holling sees the parallels between what he's reading and his life... and we a great story to read.

This is the third book I've read by Schmidt, and I heard him speak last fall at a library conference.  He creates this sort of calm atmosphere in his books and it is a wonderful feeling.  There is humor and drama and all that, but above all is this overarching tone that I just really love.

I read this book to help out with a weekly book group our teen librarian facilitates at a local school.  She had some vacation time scheduled, so I stepped in to keep the group running.  This added a new dynamic to the book for me - this group is 7th and 8th graders, and mostly males.  Now, they don't necessarily keep up with the reading schedule, but they do add some great things to the conversation.  One thread we talked about was the conversation Holling has with his teacher Mrs. Baker.  At the beginning of the school year, Holling is convinced that she hates him.  But by the end, they clearly have a great relationship.  The comments from the boys in the group was that "they wish their teachers were like that" and I felt awful.  This is where I *could* go on about the state of public education and my fears of its future with the current government, but I won't.  I'll let you think about that on your own.

This is a great book, and I think it suits this audience perfectly.  And I loved the Shakespearean parallels.

*****
The Wednesday Wars
by Gary D. Schmidt
Clarion, 2007
264 pages
Source:  Library
*****

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