Monday, October 17, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - The Wednesday Wars

by: Gary D. Schmidt
Published May 18th 2009 by Sandpiper (first published February 29th 2000)

Happy Monday!  I'm excited to share a Newbery Honor Book by a fellow Michigander today.  And a special thanks to Clara Gillow Clark for advising me to read THE WEDNESDAY WARS as research for my middle grade novel I'm writing. 

First from the publisher:

Holling Hoodhood is really in for it.  He's just started seventh grade with Mrs. Baker, a teacher he knows is out to get him. Why else would she make him read Shakespeare ... outside of class?

The year is 1967, and everyone has bigger things to worry about. There's Vietnam for one thing, and then there's the family business. As far as Holling's father is concerned, nothing is more important than the family business. In fact, all the Hoodhoods must be on their best behavior at all times. The success of Hoodhood and Associates depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has Mrs. Baker to contend with?

The first interesting item to note is the chapter set-up. Starting with September and ending in June, each month represents one chapter. The book flows through the school year 1967-1968.  The book is also written in first person, which lets you really feel the emotions of Holling as he faces the highs and lows of his life during seventh grade.

My favorite parts of the book are the relationship dynamics between Holling and Mrs. Baker. From Holling's point of view, Mrs. Baker is out to get him; he can't seem to do anything right. But what he doesn't realize and the reader begins to figure out as the school year progresses is how much he is learning. And not just about school subjects, but also about life. Without spoiling any important storylines, let me just say that Mrs. Baker appears to have a bigger influence on Holling's life than anyone else, including his own parents.

Many other relationships are explored: Holling and his father; Holling and his sister (who's name the reader doesn't find out until May - and ironically I didn't even realize it until her name was said out loud); Holling and his friends, Danny and Doug; and Holling and Meryl Lee, his eventual girlfriend.

One other item to note, I'm an avid baseball fan, so the book was extra cool when bits involving the Yankees were made part of the story. (Although as a Detroit Tiger fan, I really don't care for the Yankees.)

I definitely recommend THE WEDNESDAY WARS, and I plan to read the sequel which came out this year, OKAY FOR NOW, and was named a National Book Award finalist last week.  Plan to see that review in an upcoming MMGM.

And for more MMGMs, check out Shannon Messenger's blog and her listing of even more links.