Great Illustrated Books

The Wednesday Wars

By Gary D. Schmidt

Clarion Books, 2007
Pages : 272
Suggested Ages: 11 and Up
ISBN: 9780547237602

"Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High School, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun. Me." So starts the sometimes slapstick, sometimes serious account by Holling Hoodhood about the Wednesday afternoons he is forced to spend with his stern and demanding English teacher. The Jewish and Catholic kids get out of class early for Hebrew School or Catechism, but Holling, being inconveniently Presbyterian, stays behind, washing chalkboards and pounding erasers (this being 1967 when they used to do these things), and cleaning out the cage of the classroom's two fearsome pet rats, which he inadvertently allows to escape into the school's ceiling. Whoops. Mrs. Baker decides that she and Holling will start reading Shakespeare together, starting with The Merchant of Venice. Though they begin as adversaries, Mrs. Baker, whose husband has just been deployed to Vietnam, becomes his touchstone who helps him deal with his perfectionist and bullying father, the disappointment at meeting a less-than-genial Mickey Mantle, and playing Ariel the Fairy in the play The Tempest for the Long Island Shakespeare Company.

The novel, winner of a Newbery Honor, rehashes so vividly the era of the 1970s when Vietnam was raging, teachers taught sentence diagramming, students hid under their desks during government-approved atomic bomb drills, and an older sister ran off to California with a boyfriend to find herself. Not so different from now, really. Bruce Coville’s picture book, William Shakespeare's The Tempest, will help a lot in explaining the plot behind Holling's acting debut. Anita Ganeri's book, The Young Person's Guide to Shakespeare is a book and a CD, so readers can hear Shakespeare the way it should sound.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Avi. Romeo and Juliet���Together and Alive at Last. Orchard, 1987. ISBN-13: 978-0380705252

Caputo, Philip. 10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War. Atheneum, 2005.

Coville, Bruce. William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Delacorte, 1994. ISBN-13: 978-0440412977

Ganeri, Anita. The Young Person's Guide to Shakespeare. (book and CD) Harcourt, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0152021016

Kerley, Barbara. Greetings from Planet Earth. Scholastic, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0439802031

Schmidt, Gary D. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. Clarion, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0553494952

Williams, Marcia. Tales from Shakespeare: Seven Plays. Candlewick Press, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0763623234

Woodson, Jacqueline. Feathers. Putnam, 2007. ISBN-10: 0399239898

Critics have said

Holling's unwavering, distinctive voice offers a gentle, hopeful, moving story of a boy who, with the right help, learns to stretch beyond the limitations of his family, his violent times, and his fear, as he leaps into his future with his eyes and his heart wide open.
Gillian Enberg, Booklist

This is a lovely, heartfelt novel, read with as much care as the author used to create it.
Publishers Weekly

This story interweaves the issues of the period with grace and power, resulting in historical fiction both entertaining and endearing. Awards predicted.

Not to be missed���this is a marvelous read, both achingly funny and deeply affecting.