The Wednesday Wars

Written by Gary D. Schmidt
Review by Susan Higginbotham

As the only Presbyterian in his seventh-grade class in Long Island in 1967-68, Holling Hoodhood has to spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while his Jewish classmates go to Hebrew school and his Catholic classmates to catechism. Mrs. Baker, whose husband is fighting in Vietnam, has Holling pass his Wednesday afternoons reading Shakespeare. It’s an assignment that will lead to the unfortunate Holling meeting Mickey Mantle while dressed in yellow tights, but that also leads to Holling gaining insight about life and love—and about Holling himself.

Narrated by Holling, this is a fast-paced book with appealing characters, particularly Holling himself. (I did find it unlikely, however, that a seventh-grader named “Holling Hoodhood” didn’t spend more time fending off bullies.) Though the tone is primarily humorous, Schmidt skillfully blends in the more serious aspects of the story, such as the effect of the war on several characters and the upheavals within Holling’s own family. The end result is a funny, touching novel of one boy’s journey toward adulthood. Ages 10-14.