by Tammy DiBartolo
The Wednesday Wars is the tale of Holling Hoodhood, the only Presbyterian in seventh grade at Camillo Junior High. When the school's Jewish and Catholic students go to Hebrew School or Catechism, Holling must stay at school and work with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Holling is certain that she dislikes him.
At first, Holling does odd jobs around school during his Wednesday sessions. That is, until he goes out to clean the blackboard erasers and the chalk dust blows in the window and lands on the cream puffs to be given to the wives of the Vietnam soldiers. The next Wednesday, Holling accidentally lets the two class rats escape into the school. They show up later during a visit by the school board members.
Mrs. Baker then decides to have Holling read Shakespeare, a different play each week. Holling doesn't realize it but he is learning important lessons about his life while reading these plays.
The story is told in Hollings voice, the voice of a seventh grader during the 1967-1968 school year. He goes through all the things a boy his age must endure. He is the target of the school bully. He does not understand his parents, nor does he understand the things that are happening in the world around him. He falls in love.
When Holling has been embarrassed at school, he tells his sister that he is going to transfer to the Alabama Military Institute. His sister reminds him that Saigon follows graduation from there. The book gives readers a really good look at the sixties and the changes that were taking place. There are some moving parts in the book, like when Mrs. Baker's husband is missing in action in Vietnam. Holling notices that she is staring at a television news cast (Walter Cronkite) about the war, hoping to get a glimpse of her husband.
The author, Gary Schmidt, also makes certain that there are some funny parts as well. When the class rats chase Holling around the school track during varsity cross country try-outs, the coach asks him to join the team. Schmidt also makes certain that there is a satisfying ending to the story.
This book would make a great addition to a social studies lesson about the sixties. It makes unbiased references to the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the decision of President Johnson not to run for re-election; all events that remind us of the sixties.
There are some surprises in The Wednesday Wars, too. Like, how did Mrs. Baker end up with a silver medal from the 1956 Olympics? Read The Wednesday Wars to find out. You will be glad you did.
Mrs.Tammy DiBartolo is the Youth Services Manager for Rapides Parish Library.
December 16, 2007