This blog is a continuation of a class assignment for the TWU course 5603, Literature for Children and Young Adults. Subsequent entries are for TWU course 5653, Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults. The new entries are for TWU course 5663, Poetry for Children and Young Adults.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday Wars
By Gary Schmidt

cover image retrieved from

Schmidt, Gary D. 2007. THE WEDNESDAY WARS. Clarion Books. New York. ISBN-13: 978-0618724833

Plot Summary
Junior High, a time of turmoil and uncertainty, throws Holling Hoodhood to the wolves. His teacher hates him (he thinks,) his older sister is obsessed with the Flower Child movement of the 60s, he is misunderstood by his classmates, and his parents are uninvolved in his life, but desperate to appear the prefect family. Through the course of seventh grade, Holling learns more about Shakespeare than he ever wanted to know, forges a friendship with the dreaded Mrs. Baker, and comes to terms with who he is and who he hopes to become.

Critical Analysis
Oh, the curse of being a seventh grader in the 1960s. Unrest: personal, interpersonal, social, and political, all come crashing together in this terrific novel. Schmidt creates a cast of characters and situations that are both riotously entertaining and realistic. The struggles Holling Hoodhood endures are real to readers of all ages. The social and political issues of the decade help craft the characters of the Hoodhood family, clashing one generation against the other. Fears of the Vietnam war hang heavily in the hallways of the junior high. Yet through it all, Holling must go through the rights of passage, growing up and making decisions concerning how he will conduct himself.
Holling begins this tale convinced his teacher hates him. Forced to spend an hour a week alone with her while his classmates attend Jewish or Catholic school (Holling has the great misfortune to be Protestant,) Holling begins to understand her, and himself, better through the metaphors in the works of William Shakespeare. Readers will find themselves laughing out loud at the circumstance in which Holling finds himself as he navigates the murky waters of junior high.
Details of the 1960s and Vietnam War are historically accurate, necessary for the development of the story, but not central to the immediate action of the story. This is a perfect example of living life, and reality gets in the way. Things don’t always go as planned, but somehow they always work out in the end. Schmidt’s novel entertains, involves, and challenges the reader to consider the grand scheme of things in an ever-changing world. It is a must-read.

Review Excerpts
"Schmidt, whose LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY won both Printz and Newbery Honors, delivers another winner...deeply satisfying." Publishers Weekly, Starred

"Schmidt ... [gets] to the emotional heart of every scene without overstatement ... another virtuoso turn by the author of LIZZIE BRIGHT." Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Schmidt...makes the implausible believable and the everyday momentous...a gentle, hopeful, moving story." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Schmidt rises above the novel's conventions to create memorable and believable characters." Horn Book, Starred

"[An] entertaining and nuanced novel.... There are laugh-out-loud moments that leaven the many poignant ones." School Library Journal

"An accessible, humorous school story, and at the same time, an insightful coming-of-age tale." Bookpage

"Fans of ... LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY may be pleasantly surprised to see Schmidt's lighter, even sillier side." Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Awards and Honors
Cybil Award, 2007 Finalist Young Adult Fiction United States
John Newbery Medal, 2008 Honor Book United States
Mitten Award, 2007 Honor Book Michigan United States
National Parenting Publications Award, 2007 Gold Book Ages 12 & Up United States
Society of Midland Authors Book Award, 2008 Winner Children's Fiction United States
Thumbs Up! Award, 2008 Nominee Michigan

Best Books for Young People, 2007 ; Washington Post; United States
Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 2007 ; American Library Association; United States
Capitol Choices, 2008 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
Children's Book Sense Picks , Summer 2007 ; American Booksellers Association; United States
Kirkus Best Young Adult Books, 2007 ; Kirkus; United States
Notable Children's Books in the English Language Arts, 2008 ; NCTE Children's Literature Assembly; United States
Notable Children's Books, 2008 ; ALSC American Library Association; United States
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 ; American Library Association; United States

  • ·      Explore the culture of the 1960s. Examine what made it distinctive by visiting After looking through the website as a class, assign students to dig deeper in each of the major areas covered on this site: Arts & Architecture, Books & Literature, Education, Fads & Fashion, Historic Events and Technology, Music, Theater/Film/Radio/Television, and Sports. Have students work with a partner or small group to develop a teaching presentation to share with the class (PowerPoint, Diorama, display board, Book Trailer/Commercial, etc.)
  • ·      In the novel, Holling discovers that Mrs. Baker won a medal in the Olympics. How have Olympic competitions been impacted by world events, such as war? Have students research the modern Olympics and create a layered timeline that shows major world events and Olympic competition that coincide in time. Map the events and the sites of the Olympic competitions.
  • ·       Mrs. Baker has a love for Shakespeare that she imposes on Holling. Of course, at first he hates it and finds it proof that Mrs. Baker hates him. As the story progresses, Holling begins to find the meaning in the plays. Examine some of Shakespeare’s plays, either in small groups or with the entire class. Shakespeare for Children can be found at (free) or eBook Shakespeare’s plays for kids can be accessed for $14.95 at  
  • ·      The 1960s are remembered for the artwork, among other things. Learn more about the Optical Art, Pop Art, Psychedelic Graphics, and Peace Signs of the 60s at . Challenge students to create their own groovy art. Each student cant hen write a poem to describe their art and/or the 1960s. Use the poems and artwork to create a classroom display or compile a class anthology.

Other books by Gary D. Schmidt:

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Okay for Now
First Boy
Straw Into Gold
Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost
The Sin Eater
Mara’s Stories: Glimmers in the Darkness
Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season

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