Reviews for Wednesday Wars
Booklist Reviews 2007 June #1
*Starred Review* On Wednesday afternoons, while his Catholic and Jewish schoolmates attend religious instruction, Holling Hoodhood, the only Presbyterian in his seventh grade, is alone in the classroom with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, who Holling is convinced hates his guts. He feels more certain after Mrs. Baker assigns Shakespeare's plays for Holling to discuss during their shared afternoons. Each month in Holling's tumultuous seventh-grade year is a chapter in this quietly powerful coming-of-age novel set in suburban Long Island during the late '60s. The slow start may deter some readers, and Mrs. Baker is too good to be true: she arranges a meeting between Holling and the New York Yankees, brokers a deal to save a student's father's architectural firm, and, after revealing her past as an Olympic runner, coaches Holling to the varsity cross-country team. However, Schmidt, whose Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2005) was named both a Printz and a Newbery Honor Book, makes the implausible believable and the everyday momentous. Seamlessly, he knits together the story's themes: the cultural uproar of the '60s, the internal uproar of early adolescence, and the timeless wisdom of Shakespeare's words. Holling's unwavering, distinctive voice offers a gentle, hopeful, moving story of a boy who, with the right help, learns to stretch beyond the limitations of his family, his violent times, and his fear, as he leaps into his future with his eyes and his heart wide open.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2007 Fall
Every Wednesday, Holling (who believes teachers are "born behind their desks") stays with Mrs. Baker who, as he sees it, uses the time for special torture. Ultimately, Mrs. Baker steps forward as a multilayered individual who helps Holling follow his own path. Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Schmidt's novel rises above its conventions through memorable, believable characters. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2008 Spring
Every Wednesday, Holling (who believes teachers are "born behind their desks") stays with Mrs. Baker who, as he sees it, uses the time for special torture. Ultimately, Mrs. Baker steps forward as a multilayered individual who helps Holling follow his own path. Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, Schmidt's novel rises above its conventions through memorable, believable characters. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2007 #4
Entering seventh grade, Holling Hoodhood knows all about teachers. They're "born behind their desks, fully grown, with a red pen in their hand and ready to grade." And the worst of them hate your guts, which is precisely the way he believes Mrs. Baker feels about him. Every Wednesday afternoon, when the rest of his class leaves early to attend Hebrew school or catechism class, Holling, the lone Presbyterian, stays behind with Mrs. Baker. As Holling sees it, she uses the extra time for special torture, ranging from cleaning out rat cages to diagramming impossibly convoluted sentences to reading Shakespeare. That the two will grow to respect each other is a predictable trope, but the alliance nevertheless becomes convincing and winning. Insistently in the background is the Vietnam War: Mrs. Baker's husband is missing in action at Khesanh; the school's cook loses her husband in the conflict; the presence of a Vietnamese refugee in the class triggers hatred and bigotry. At home, Holling's sister supports the peace movement and women's rights; his father puts his architectural business above all; and his mother passively acquiesces to Mr. Hoodhood. Ultimately, Mrs. Baker steps out from behind her desk as a multilayered individual who helps Holling (often through their discussions of Shakespeare's plays) to dare to choose his own ending rather than follow the dictates of others. Schmidt rises above the novel's conventions to create memorable and believable characters. Copyright 2007 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2007 May #2
It's 1967, and on Wednesdays, every Jewish kid in Holling Hoodhood's class goes to Hebrew School, and every Catholic kid goes to Catechism. Holling is Presbyterian, which means that he and Mrs. Baker are alone together every Wednesday--and she hates it just as much as he does. What unfolds is a year of Wednesday Shakespeare study, which, says Mrs. Baker, "is never boring to the true soul." Holling is dubious, but trapped. Schmidt plaits world events into the drama being played out at Camillo Junior High School, as well as plenty of comedy, as Holling and Mrs. Baker work their way from open hostility to a sweetly realized friendship. Holling navigates the multitudinous snares set for seventh-graders--parental expectations, sisters, bullies, girls--with wry wit and the knowledge that the world will always be a step or two ahead of him. Schmidt has a way of getting to the emotional heart of every scene without overstatement, allowing the reader and Holling to understand the great truths swirling around them on their own terms. It's another virtuoso turn by the author of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2005). (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 April #3
On the first day of the 1967-68 school year, Holling Hoodhood thinks he's made a mortal enemy of his new teacher when it turns out he's the only seventh-grader who does not leave early every Wednesday to attend Hebrew school or catechism. (Holling is Presbyterian, and though eminently likeable, he does have a knack for unintentionally making enemies.) Stern Mrs. Baker first gives him custodial duties, but after hilarious if far-fetched catastrophes involving chalk dust, rats and freshly baked cream puffs, she switches to making him read Shakespeare. He overcomes his initial horror, adopting the Bard's inventive cursing as his own to dress down schoolyard bullies. Indeed standing up for himself is the real battle Holling is waging, especially at home, where his architect father has the entire family under his thumb. Schmidt, whose Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy won both Printz and Newbery Honors, delivers another winner here, convincingly evoking 1960s Long Island, with Walter Cronkite's nightly updates about Vietnam as the soundtrack. The serious issues are leavened with ample humor, and the supporting cast--especially the wise and wonderful Mrs. Baker--is fully dimensional. Best of all is the hero, who shows himself to be more of a man than his authoritarian father. Unlike most Vietnam stories, this one ends happily, as Schmidt rewards the good guys with victories that, if not entirely true to the period, deeply satisfy. Ages 10-14. (May) [Page 49]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2007 July
Gr 5-8-- This entertaining and nuanced novel limns Holling Hoodhood's seventh-grade year in his Long Island community, beginning in the fall of 1967. His classmates, half of whom are Jewish, the other half Catholic, leave early on Wednesdays to attend religious training. As the sole Presbyterian, he finds himself stranded with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, whom he's sure has it in for him. She starts off creating mindless chores for him but then induces him to read Shakespeare--lots of Shakespeare. Chapters titled by month initially seem overlong, relating such diverse elements as two terrifying escaped rats, cream puffs from a local bakery, his dad being a cheapskate/cutthroat architect, and Holling's tentative and sweet relationship with classmate Meryl Lee. The scary Doug Swieteck, and his even more frightening brother, and the Vietnam War are recurring menaces. A subplot involves a classmate who, as a recent Vietnamese refugee, is learning English and suffers taunts and prejudice. Cross-country tryouts, rescuing his older runaway sister, and opening day at Yankee Stadium are highlights. There are laugh-out-loud moments that leaven the many poignant ones as Schmidt explores many important themes, not the least of which is what makes a person a hero. The tone may seem cloying at first and the plot occasionally goes over-the-top, but readers who stick with the story will be rewarded. They will appreciate Holling's gentle, caring ways and will be sad to have the book end.--Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA [Page 110]. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2007 June
Seventh grader Holling Hoodhood lives in the Long Island suburbs in the Perfect House with his less-than-perfect, architect father, his subservient mother, and his flower-child sister. On Wednesday afternoon, half of his class leaves for Hebrew School at Temple Beth-El while the other half goes to catechism. Holling is the lone Presbyterian so he stays behind with his teacher, Ms. Baker, whom Holling knows hates him. She introduces him to the plays of William Shakespeare, an assignment that Holling assumes is punishment but which actually enhances his life. There is a lot going on in this novel not all related to the politics of the turbulent 1960s. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and the unpopular Vietnam War play a part in Holling's seventh grade year but so do two rats, Sycorax and Calliban, with their clacking yellow teeth; a part as Ariel in yellow tights; a track team; bullying and racism; a camping trip; and disappointment in a first love. Ms. Baker gently guides him through everything even as she brokenheartedly deals with the news that her husband is MIA. This novel is funny, warm, sad, and touching all at the same time. Holling Hoodhood will live with the reader for a very long time after he finishes seventh grade and learns "to thine self be true."-Kathie Fitch 4Q 4P M J S Copyright 2007 Voya Reviews.