Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Wednesday Wars

Just finished The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt. It won the Newbery Honor Medal this year. This is the best book I've read in a long time. It's funny, clever, warm, charming, sad and wonderful. Set in 1967/68 it's the story of Holling Hoodhood and his stressful year in seventh grade. Holling, being a Presbyterian, is the only kid at his junior high school who does not attend either Hebrew school or Catholic instruction on Wednesday afternoons, so he must remain at school with his teacher Mrs. Baker. Holling thinks that she hates him. She does not. She assigns a different Shakespeare play each month for him to read and for the two of them to discuss. Holling's exposure to Shakespeare gives him insight into the challenges of everyday life on Long Island during a year that brought bad news from Vietnam, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Bobby Kennedy. Holling grapples with family discord, first love, bullies, danger and Shakespeare. Observing that Holling blatantly lacks the support most kids get at home, Mrs. Baker backs him up time and again, helping him to achieve numerous personal triumphs.

The plays Holling reads are The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Julius Ceasar, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. Schmidt won the Newbery Honor Medal in 2004 as well for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.

I laughed out loud many times and cried a few as well with this book. I highly recommend it.

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