Review of “The Wednesday Wars”

Schmidt, Gary D.  The Wednesday Wars.  Clarion, New York, 2007.  ISBN: 0618724834
Holling Hoodhood must stay in Mrs. Baker’s class in the year 1967.  The Vietnam War is going on and Mrs. Baker’s husband is a soldier there.  However, Holling doesn’t learn that, or that Mrs. Baker is an Olympiad, until later.  First he has to deal with Wednesdays when he stays in her class while the other kids go to Catechism or Hebrew school.  He is forced to clean chalkboards, clean the coat closet, then read Shakespeare.  Eventually he and Mrs. Baker form a bond but the Vietnam war still rages on.
Vardell states that, “Historical fiction definitely offers meaty content that has teachable value” (176).  There is plenty of historical reference for the 1960s that a student could gather from by using this book as a tool.  For a classroom lesson, I would read the book aloud and use any historical reference (Jesse Owen, Vietnam War, Mickey Mantle, etc.) and have students report back what information they learned about each subject.  This book is quite entertaining because it mixes unrealistic (the name Hoodhood and his fear of a teacher are my first notions of the absurd) but with the real theme of the Vietnam War. 
This book has won ALA’s Notable Books for Children award in 2008 as well as both Publisher’s Weekly Best Children’s Book award and Best Books of the Year in 2007.  Booklist (June 1, 2007) gave this book a starred review by saying, “On Wednesday afternoons, while his Catholic and Jewish schoolmates attend religious instruction, Holling Hoodhood, the only Presbyterian in his seventh grade, is alone in the classroom with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, who Holling is convinced hates his guts. He feels more certain after Mrs. Baker assigns Shakespeare’s plays for Holling to discuss during their shared afternoons. Each month in Holling’s tumultuous seventh-grade year is a chapter in this quietly powerful coming-of-age novel set in suburban Long Island during the late ’60s. The slow start may deter some readers, and Mrs. Baker is too good to be true: she arranges a meeting between Holling and the New York Yankees, brokers a deal to save a student’s father’s architectural firm, and, after revealing her past as an Olympic runner, coaches Holling to the varsity cross-country team.”  It is definitely a book that has something that male readers could get into, especially with explanation of the historical references in the book.  I would also go as far as to suggest the class watches an episode of The Wonder Years, because it reminded me a lot of that television series.  I suggest Shooting the Moon as another comparable book if students are reading a novel in groups or choosing their own themes novel for a book report.

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