The Wednesday Wars

by Gary D. Schmidt (2007)

An Intermediate and Middle School selection.

In The Wednesday Wars, Holling Hoodhood, navigates 7th grade on Long Island in the 1967-68 school year, a time of great upheaval both for Holling and the country.

At home, his father is absorbed in his competitive architecture practice, his sister is consumed by protesting the Vietnam War, and his mother is trying to maintain the façade of perfection.

At school, he fears the notorious Mrs. Baker, famous for her dedication to instruction and her obsession with William Shakespeare. (Holling eventually comes to appreciate both Mrs. Baker and Shakespeare, starting with the Bard’s infamous curses.) Among his classmates are friends and foes. There’s Doug Swieteck who boasts 410 different ways of wreaking revenge on teachers. And Meryl Lee Kowalski, about whom Holling observes, “Love and hate in seventh grade are not far apart, let me tell you.”

While Holling worries about 7th grade concerns of family and school, the world around him is in tumult. Gary D. Schmidt uses the Vietnam War, and the other historical events of the time (including the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy) to support the plot, while remaining true to Holling’s winning adolescent story.

Schmidt has created a Newbery Honor book that weaves disparate elements into an ever more complex tapestry. Holling’s candid narrative voice – sometimes sarcastic, sometimes rueful – carries the reader through rewarding chapters that are at various points comic or tragic, but always honest.

This captivating story invites schools to use details in the book to explore history (the Battle of Khe Sanh) and Shakespeare (from quotations to plays). Holling’s journey also provides a springboard for innovative writing exercises that build off of the work Holling does with Mrs. Baker on his infamous Wednesday afternoons. You may find students exploring bits of Shakespeare, enjoying “the rhythm of it” along with Holling.

With a book as layered as this one, there is something for every reader – not just Shakespeare and contemporary history. Other topics include baseball, cream puffs, rodents, civil disobedience, refugees, loyalty, and a teacher who ends up being totally different from her reputation.

We are proud to offer this book, so rich in pointillist details that it will captivate your students and families. And once your readers fall for Gary D. Schmidt’s nuanced writing, they will be clamoring to explore his wide array of other titles.

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