The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Published: print – Clarion Books, 2007
audio – Scholastic Audio Books, 2007
Source: School library copy
Why I chose to read
The novel is used in our sixth-grade English classes. I thought it was about time I read it!
It is 1967, and Holling Hoodhood is the only Presbyterian in his seventh-grade homeroom class. Consequently, he is the only student left behind on Wednesdays when everyone else goes to Hebrew school or catechism. In his opinion, this draws the ire of his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Why else would she force him to read Shakespeare?
Shakespeare is not Holling’s only concern. He also has to deal with rats, avoid Doug Swieteck’s brother, confront his father’s expectations of his future position with Hoodhood and Associates, and scrape together enough money for 24 cream puffs – twice. And that is just the beginning.
What I enjoyed
- The humor, oh, the humor! The humor was highlighted particularly by Joel Johnstone’s hilarious narration.
- Schmidt captured the tentative dynamic of middle-school romance perfectly.
- The rat subplot.
- Once again, Joel Johnstone – this time for the voice of the principal.
- Mrs. Baker – she is the teacher I aspire to be.
- Following Holling’s journey as he finds his “guts.”
- Introducing today’s students to the joys of sentence diagramming.
What detracted from my enjoyment
The main plot did take a while to get going. I was distracted by the myriad deviations from the subplots early on. Many of them did end up tying back in later on, so it wasn’t wasted time, and all played an important role building an understanding of Holling and his world.
Stories set in the Vietnam era
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
Kaleidoscope Eyes by Jen Bryant
Humorous school stories
Frindle by Andrew Clements
Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell
I tried to write this review without discussing the important parts, but I can’t. So, if you haven’t read this book, do not read this review! Major spoilers ahead!!!!!
Ms. Blundell takes a while to establish the background, which she accomplishes through almost a double flashback. That sounds complicated, but it is really a series of flashbacks within the frame of a larger flashback. More of a recollection, really. Still, I felt that the story built very slowly, and that prevented me from becoming immersed in the story.
Evie is smart and tough, young and in love. I enjoyed Evie’s coming-of-age storyline. Being much more jaded than Evie, I easily suspected Beverly and Peter of having an affair. Nevertheless, the hurricane and the trial captured my attention as I worried over the pending resolution. How could the trail possibly end without death or conviction for the parents? To my delight, Ms. Blundell finds a clever and satisfying ending.
My only quibble was the reaction of Peter’s father to Evie as she leaves the courtroom. I suppose his father displayed contempt for Evie because she protected her parents, but I thought he would have been comforted by how she salvaged Peter’s reputation.
On a personal note, it was funny to hear the residents of Florida and West Palm Beach described as southerners. So different now. My parents live there, and I struggled a bit while imagining the setting, since my own experiences interfered. Wasn't a big deal, though.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
Isn't this such an appealing cover? The silhouette is striking, and yellow is my favorite color, so I think that is part of what draws my eye. Clever title, too, since the story revolves around a budding naturalist in a time when Charles Darwin has stirred up quite the controversy with his theory of evolution.
Calpurnia Tate has been my lunch-time companion for quite some time. I am not quite certain whether the book falls within the middle-grade or young-adult range. The main character is eleven/twelve, but this book tends toward the pensive, which ups the reading maturity required. Either way, it is a quiet story with subtle humor in which not much happens. No major adventures or journeys. Just Callie, a girl with six brothers living in 1899 Texas, harboring ambitions of university and science.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is a well done slice-of-life story. It probably won't be tremendously popular, but I hope that is not the sole determinant of a successful book. I found it refreshing, charming, and featuring the kind of girl I found inspiring as a child.
Source: school library