Monday, January 26, 2009

children's book review: the wednesday wars by gary schmidt

The Wednesday Wars is set in Long Island in 1967. Holling Hoodhood narrates the tales of his seventh grade years, with each chapter covering a different month of school. The crux of the story includes the Wednesday afternoons he spends alone with his homeroom teacher, Mrs. Baker. Holling is convinced Mrs. Baker hates him. Holling is the only Presbyterian boy in his class; the rest of the class is split evenly between Catholics and Jews. All of the other students leave school early on Wednesdays to attend church. Mrs. Baker must find activities to occupy Holling's time. The first few weeks, Holling does cleaning projects, but soon Mrs. Baker has the idea for them to start reading Shakespeare together.

This book manages to include an incredible amount of Shakespeare, and Schmidt does an excellent job of making Shakespeare relevant, even to the readers who have not yet read his plays. Holling's relationship with his parents and sister is tumultuous at times, but there is a sense of timelessness to their problems modern readers will surely relate to. Schmidt also deftly uses the 1967 setting to share the political and sports history of the time. The book is immensely relatable, yet it includes vast amounts of historical and literary knowledge as well.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5) - loved it
Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Support Your Local Library, Young Adult

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