September 13, 2007

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The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion Books, 2007, 266 pages, ages 10+)
Reviewed by Lisa Parsons news@hippopress.com

Stuck alone in a study hall with Mrs. Baker every Wednesday afternoon, seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood (weird name, but it works) finds unexpected wisdom in Shakespeare and unexpected humanity in grown-ups.

What’s best is that Schmidt can let a young narrator sound intelligent, introspective and thoughtful without making him sound stilted (although Holling’s adoption of the Shakespearean phrase “toads, beetles, bats” as his new epithet does feel unwieldy). In general Holling seems like a bright, smart, well-spoken seventh-grader who enjoys Shakespeare and makes no apologies for it. He takes some heat, in the form of posters plastered around school that show him in yellow tights as a fairy on stage, a role he didn’t pick but couldn’t avoid. And he tries to avoid the heat where he can. But he’s got a pretty solid sense of self, which makes this a pleasant read.

The Wednesday Wars is set in 1967; the effects of Vietnam show up in the prejudice an Asian student endures and in the quiet fears of the school staff whose soldier-husbands are serving.

Schmidt is also the author of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, which won a Newbery Honor award. B+Lisa Parsons