Brandy's Reviews > The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
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's review
Mar 01, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2008reads, historical, teen, childrens, bildungsroman, library, realistic, friendship, middle-grade

Tangential to my usual Newbery rant is this: the Newbery Honor books are usually better books than the Newbery medal winners, and this is no exception.

Against the background of the Vietnam war (in which faculty members' husbands are fighting, missing, dying), Hollis is just trying to make it through the seventh grade--the year when half his class goes to Hebrew school on Wednesday afternoons, and the other half goes to catechism, leaving Hollis alone with Mrs. Baker week after week. And that wouldn't be so bad, except that Mrs. Baker apparently hates him. After devising several plans to get rid of him in the afternoons, she finally starts assigning him Shakespeare--which leads to a number of colorful curses, and understanding of love, and a public performance in yellow tights with feathers on the butt.

There's also a strong story here outside of school, of Hollis' home life--his father, doing everything possible to secure his architectural firm in the town; his sister, whose liberal politics are in direct opposition to their father's; his mother, who isn't as well drawn as the others but mostly just wants peace in the household. There are some vague references to Hollis' parents having fallen out of love with each other, but no big deal is ever made of it; it's just the way things are, and not a particular source of drama or strife.

The story is tenderly written without being mushy; the sadness, loneliness, and grief are tempered with happiness and hope, and the growing ability to let others help shoulder one's burdens--and to help shoulder others'. It's a tender, beautiful book, but there's more happening here to balance it than in the usual Newbery fare.

(Shelved as Children's and Teen, because this is really right on the cusp--I think the appeal is mostly 5th-6th grade, despite the character's being in 7th.)

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