I believe that my feelings about all things autumn can be described when Tom Hanks’ character in the movie You’ve Got Mail says “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” Even though I have finished my formal education, I find myself wistful for notebooks, backpacks, and new classes. So to indulge my back-to-school nostalgia, this month’s book recommendation is the middle grade novel The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, which was published by Clarion Books in 2007 and won a Newbery Honor award.
Mrs. Baker hates Holling Hoodhood’s guts.
It’s not his fault he’s Presbyterian in a class that either leaves for the Jewish school or Catholic school on Wednesday afternoons. Mrs. Baker doesn’t get Wednesday’s off now, and Holling suspects that she may have sent Doug Swietick’s older brother to assassinate him during recess.
But when Mrs. Baker has Holling read Shakespeare, he begins to learn more about his world than he ever knew. From the Vietnam War to politics to his own family, Holling sees Shakespeare’s words, characters, and themes in everything. This school story is rife with humor, love, tragedy, and history, just like Shakespeare’s plays. Get ready for fun and disaster with school pranks, class treats, baseball, and some very large rats.
The Wednesday wars is a fun yet poignant story for anyone who wants to learn more about what life was like during the uproar of politics and culture of the Vietnam War. It is also a great read for Shakespeare buffs.
Book Group Questions
- Is Mrs. Baker really out to get Holling?
- The themes and characters in Shakespeare’s plays often overlap into Holling’s life. What ways did this happen in the book and how did it affect Hollings perspective?
- Holling wants to choose a life for himself. What do you think about the scene near the end of the book when Holling’s father asks who he is and Holling says that he doesn’t know yet?
- How does Mr. Hoodhood view his family in comparison to his business? How does this view affect Holling’s life?
- How does Holling’s relationship with Mrs. Baker change? What about his relationship with his sister?