Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt tells the story of seventh grader Holling Hoodhood. It is a new school year in 1967, Holling is beginning seventh grade at Camillo Junior High School and his teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates him. Why? Every Wednesday afternoon half of Mrs. Baker’s class leaves early to attend Hebrew school; the other half departs for Catechism and only Holling remains, the only Presbyterian.

“That’s when I knew she hated me. This look came over her face like the sun had winked out and was not going to shine again until next June.” (The Wednesday Wars, p. 4)

After depleting an assortment of after school errands’, including the infamous chalk dust and cream puff incident, Mrs. Baker determines reading Shakespeare would be an ideal way for Hollings to spend Wednesday afternoon. Everyday life in seventh grade is a constant challenge for Hollings as he grapples with heir apparent expectations from his father, peer pressure from classmates, wearing yellow tights with feathers on his behind, and hopes to survive running track with the eighth graders.

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, this coming of age story is especially poignant. Historic details such as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy’s potential run for office (Holling’s sister is a campaign volunteer), soldiers missing in action (Mrs. Baker’s husband), and the plight Vietnamese refugees (Holling’s classmate Mai Thi), are of interwoven with the every day life of Hollings and his family. Though some might find Mrs. Baker a bit unbelievable, her initial harshness is oddly placed and her contacts with famous ball players a bit convenient, she is a wonderful foil, adversary, and confidant. This book is funny, touching, and a realistic slice of seventh grade life right down to the "410 ways to get a teacher to hate you."

When his dad asks, “So who are you, Holling?” the answer is appropriate, “I’ll let you know.”

Tags: , , ,

No comments: