The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

Cover of "The Wednesday Wars"

Cover of The Wednesday Wars

The first thing I did after I got my Kindle was go to Everyday Reading and look through all Janssen’s book reviews to find books I wanted to put on my Kindle. I trust her judgment, as you can tell.

As an aside, precisely that is why I love my Kindle – not only because I am  now never without a book, not only because I no longer have to gauge how many pages I have left to go versus the hours I’ll be on public transportation to figure out if I need to lug a second book with me to work or not, but mostly because it’s given me my library back. Sure, I live in a university town, so our public library has a decent collection of English books, even semi-recent publications. But still, it happened so often that I’d read about a book, get all excited, then find out that our library didn’t have it and neither did any public library in the system. Now, after I check the library, I check the internet and download it and usually can start reading it instantly.

Very awesome. Mostly because it allows me to read books like The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. This is a book I’d never find in a library here, and I wouldn’t buy it because it’s YA and with all the books in the world to buy and my limited resources, I rarely buy YA. If I hadn’t bought a Kindle, I wouldn’t have read this book. And that would have been my loss.

Really. It’s a wonderful book, well-written, with engaging characters, and a lot of Shakespeare thrown in to boot. It’s about Holling Hoodhood, a boy in seventh grade in the 1960s, living with a domineering business-oriented father, with Vietnam and the murders of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and flower children in the background. But of course, Holling has other problems, like the fact that Mrs. Baker, his home-room teacher, hates his guts. Which is all the more problematic because he’s the lone Presbyterian kid in a room full of Jews and Catholics, who go to their respective religious houses for instruction each Wednesday afternoon, leaving him alone with Mrs. Baker. The first month or so, he cleans the classroom and claps all the erasers in the building, but later on, they start to read Shakespeare together. Although this plan convinces him at first that Mrs. Baker really does hate him, for the rest of the book, Holling peppers his speech with Shakespearean curses and learns to relate those old plays to his life. In the meantime, he falls in love, just a little bit, watches the war hit close to home when Mrs. Baker’s husband goes MIA and his sister Heather goes off to be a flower child in California. He sees his father in a new light and realizes he can choose who he wants to be in life but that it’s a choice that needs constant re-choosing, if he doesn’t want to end up as Shylock and become who everyone thinks he is or should be. Oh, and he deals with rats. Huge rats. And, in return for a tray full of delicious cream puffs, he plays Ariel in a local staging of The Tempest, requiring him to wear yellow tights with little feathers on his butt. If you want to know how he lives that down, go pick up a copy of The Wednesday Wars. You won’t regret it.

 

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