Sunday, May 25, 2008
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
This is another one I read for the A to Z Challenge. I read about it in a number of blogs and it has been on my TBR pile for awhile. It doesn't qualify for the In The Pub challenge because, even though it is a recently published book, it is classified as a young adult novel.
The books follows Holling Hoodhood through his seventh grade school year in 1967. Holling lives in a small town where everyone is either Catholic or Jewish. Being a Presbyterian, Holling is not dismissed from school early each Wednesday, much to the dismay of his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Through the Wednesday afternoons of the school year, Holling learns to read Shakespeare, wrangles missing rats, and learns to run for the school's track team. He also learns about himself, his family, and his own humanity in the process.
STRENGTHS OF THE WEDNESDAY WARS: Schmidt created a school, and set of characters, that beg for teachers to read them to their upper elementary school classes. There are parts of the story that are laugh out loud funny, like when the class rats escape and how they are finally found. Schmidt also does a good job of capturing the era with the conflict between Holling's father and sister as well as the military deployment of Mrs. Baker's husband. By making the main character a boy, this is a book that both boys and girls can relate to. I also liked the ending of the book where Holling was, finally, able to stand up for himself and what he wanted. I think that's a great lesson for young people. The last page of the story really highlights Holling's growth and his humanity without being too sentimental. Schmidt did an excellent job of creating a character that young people will enjoy.
WEAKNESSES OF THE WEDNESDAY WARS: I really enjoyed this one so it's hard for me to find any problems with it. The only thing I can say is that it assumes some knowledge of the political events of the era which, unfortunately, may be lacking in the book's target audience. As adults, we assume they know about Vietnam, but they may have never gotten that far in their history classes.
Overall, I'd highly recommend this one. In fact, I'm giving it 5 stars (only the third book I've given all five stars to this year!) It is a funny yet poignant look at the problems of growing up. This would be a great gift to the young person in your life. I would use it to open up a discussion of following your own path and what that really means. If you've read it, I'd love to know what you thought.