The Wednesday Wars

by Gary D. Schmidt

Paperback, 2007


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Clarion Books (2009), Edition: Reprint, 288 pages


During the 1967 school year, on Wednesday afternoons when all his classmates go to either Catechism or Hebrew school, seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood stays in Mrs. Baker's classroom where they read the plays of William Shakespeare and Holling learns much of value about the world he lives in.

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LibraryThing member Whisper1
Have you ever read a book wherein you cried from one sentence, and then laughed at the next?
Have you ever read a book wherein you simply did not want it to end?
Have you ever read a book wherein the characters were so beautifully portrayed that you wanted them as real-life friends?
Have you ever read
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a book where the writing was magical, the story line so convincingly incredible that you knew it was destined to be one of your top all-time favorites ... ever?
Gary Schmidt has written such a book!

Praise should not be given lightly, rendering the message meaningless. Thus, rarely do I gush or stand on a soap box telling all to read a specific book, but this is an exception.

RUSH to get it, but then slowly read it, savoring every word, every nuance, every turn of the phrase and every heartwarming paragraph.

Welcome to 1967 where Holling Hoodhood is entering Mrs. Baker's seventh grade class at Camillo Junior High in Long Island, NY. The only Presbyterian in Wednesday class, he must stay behind with Mrs. Baker while all others either attend catechism or Hebrew school.

What unfolds is quite surprising to Holling as originally he was convinced Mrs. Baker hated him. He soon discovers a magical, wonderful mentor who instills a love of Shakespeare. Soon Holling is quoting verbatim and applying the emotions set forth by Shakespeare to his own real life, coming- of-age situations.

The cast of characters includes some bullies, some meanies, and many stellar remarkable people. Using Viet Nam as a backdrop, Schmidt allows us to see the impact on Holling's family, and his teachers, as both Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Bigio, the school cook, have husbands who are fighting in the Viet Nam jungle.

Without over politicizing, Schmidt makes a statement as we watch L.B. Johnson escalate the war while families watch the six o'clock news with Walter Cronkite.

Through Holling's eyes, we observe the character of a classmate, Mai Thi, A Viet Nam refugee, who becomes a scapegoat and victim of stereotyping.

As Holling not only learns Shakespeare, he garners valuable experiences, and as the year progresses, he learns to stand up for himself -- and in the process gains enough confidence to stand up for others.

Thanks to Alaskabookworm (Linda) and Stasia for recommending this 2008 Newbery Honor book. The only disappointment I have is that it was an honor book when truly, it should have received the medal!
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LibraryThing member jnwelch
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt is an amiable YA title. I wasn't as taken by it as some have been, mostly because it wasn't particularly believable for me. Coming off of ones like The Fault in Our Stars and Wonder, this was hard to overcome, even though the 7th grade narrator Holling Hoodhood
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has charm and there are some nice moments as he bonds with his initial nemesis Mrs. Baker over Shakespeare's plays. Hard not to like a YA that features insights into plays like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing in its plot. And part of the fun is the enjoyment Holling gets out of using Shakespearean insults and exclamations.

The story occurs during the Vietnam War, and various current events, including the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., affect the characters. Holling grows during the book, and shows he'll be a better man than his insensitive, mercenary architect father. If only the events in the book were as convincing as the historical events in which the story is set. Nonetheless, if you're willing to suspend disbelief and follow a likeable character - and have some Shakespeare fun along the way - you can have a good time with this book.
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LibraryThing member jgoitein
It takes a bit of doing for an adult reader to get into the mind set of a thirteen year old boy, but once you do, Gary Schmidt's Newbery Honor book Wednesday Wars is an excellent and witty transport back to the classroom and the historically pivotal years of 1967-68. While Holling Hoodhood's milieu
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is middle class suburbian Long Island, any bright reader will identity with his comical, paranoid thoughts of his teacher out to get him, how to best out prank the school bully, and how to live down wearing yellow tights and tail feathers in the school play, The Tempest.

Schmidt's use of crisp, insightful dialogue is punctuated with sarcasm teens are known for, and will love reading. His Holling Hoodhood, while not the best or most memorable name for a youthful protagonist, is to be admired for his adaptability and making the best of awkward situations. Schmidt's clever use of Shakespeare's plays and Holling's growing interest in his characters and how their dilemmas fit into his life, serve as a great introduction into the Bard for middle school readers of today

As a piece of historical fiction, Schmidt invites us into the Hoodhood's Perfect House and lets us view the dynamics of an American family in 1967. Families then still ate dinner together, watched the Evening News with Walter Cronkite, and listened to the mounting number of soldiers being brought home in body bags from Vietnam. Schmidt also shows a family this is on the verge of becoming the dysfunctional families of the 1970's. Holling is a good sport about t his neglectful parents, who can't seem to make it to either the school play or his cross country race. He always knows his sister Heather's moods by what music is on and how loud she plays it. While not out right defiant towards her father, she expresses the youth view of the social and political upheaval of the nineteen sixties.
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LibraryThing member ChandlerF1
The Wednesday Wars is a practically flawless book that had me alternately in spasms of hysterical laughter and reaching for a wad of tissues. It seamlessly blends the dramas of the seventh grade with the harsh and frightening adult world at the height of the Vietnam War. The story follows Holling
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Hoodhood, a seventh grader who is convinced that his new teacher, Mrs. Baker, absolutley loathes his guts. Things are only complicated by an hour and a half alone every Wednesday with Mrs. Baker when half the class goes to Hebrew School and the other half to Catechism, several ferocious rats, creme puffs, the Yankees, Shakespeare, and a hairy and stupid eighth grader bent on seeing to Holling's early death; plus the bloodshed of Vietnam, Mrs. Baker's hidden pain as she waits desperatley for her husband to return from the warfront, and the anguishing emptyness that fills the Hoodhood household as arguements and stubborness are almost palpable in the air.
From the flatly stated first sentence to the heart-swelling last page, The Wednesday Wars is a book that straps you into an emotional roller-coaster ride and never lets you go until you are fully sure that your internal organs have been permanently rearranged.
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LibraryThing member porch_reader
Holling Hoodhood (what a great name!) is a seventh grader in 1967-68. The only Presbyterian in a class of Catholic and Jewish students, he has to spend every Wednesday afternoon alone with his teacher Mrs. Baker while his classmates go to religious instruction. The first two sentences of the book
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leave no question about Holling's relationship with Mrs. Baker:

"Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun. Me."

Those two sentences tell us a lot about Holling in general. He lives his life in superlatives. He goes from being the class hero to the class goat and back again in a matter of pages. Like many seventh graders, the events of his own life take on extreme importance, while the events of history occupy the background. As we go from September to May with Holling, his relationship with Mrs. Baker improves, he becomes a hero of stage and track, and he gets the girl. Schmidt tells a compelling story, but his real talent is in writing about relationships. Through the smallest details, we see Holling's relationships develop with Mrs. Baker, with his sister, and with his dad.

But even more interesting is the way in which Schmidt layers the events of 1967-68 in the background of Holling's story. Mrs. Baker's husband is away at war, as are many other family members and friends of the staff Camillo Junior High. Holling's sister embraces the peace movement, and even Holling's dad pauses when assassinations rock the country. Schmidt shows us these events through the eyes of a seventh grader, capturing the essence of this period in history.

This book is funny and sad and rings true with each word. I finished it in a marathon reading session after my family was asleep last Sunday night. With tears rolling down my face, I felt lucky to have seen the world through the eyes of Holling Hoodhood, if only for a year.
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LibraryThing member pjw1173
This book has the best opening I've ever read. The opening involves a list of pranks that start out 'not so horrible' and go to unmentionably illegal. The book deals with a young man growing up in 1968 and shows how the events of that year affect him and his family. This book would be a good mentor
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text for a middle/high school history teacher.
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LibraryThing member lrobe190
During the 1967 school year, on Wednesday afternoons when all his classmates go to either Catechism or Hebrew school, seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood stays in Mrs. Baker's classroom where they read the plays of William Shakespeare and Holling learns much of value about the world he lives in. This
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book is reminiscent of the TV Show, "The Wonder Years" or even Gary Paulsen's "Harris and Me". It is packed with humor based on pranks and experiences of 7th grade boys. Anyone growning up in the 60's will relate, but the story is really timeless.
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LibraryThing member allthesedarnbooks
This book is set in 1967 Long Island, narrated by a seventh grade boy, the awesomely named Holling Hoodhood. As the book starts, Holling is convinced that his seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates his guts. While the other students in his class go to Catholic or Jewish religious education
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classes, Holling, a Presbyterian, is forced to stay alone with Mrs. Baker. Eventually they start reading Shakespeare together. Sounds like a fairly simple story, right? Think again. In the hands of Schmidt, what could be a basic, boring coming of age story is a masterpiece. I laughed out loud and I sobbed out loud, sometimes within the space of the same page. I really cannot recommend this book enough. Highly recommended for kids and adults! Five stars.
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LibraryThing member bell7
Holling Hoodhood is the only Presbyterian in his class, which means that on Wednesday afternoons when half his classmates go to Hebrew school and the other half go to CCD, he's stuck in the classroom with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. At first, she gives him chores to do, but then she starts having him
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read Shakespeare.

I'm rather ashamed to say I've been putting this book off, despite the acclaim it's received and the recommendations I've received from others on LT. The truth is, I found Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy depressing, and was afraid I'd be in for the same sort of book. What I didn't realize at all was how incredibly funny The Wednesday Wars is. I listened to quite a bit of it on my commute to work, and narrator Joel Johnstone not only has a pitch-perfect reading sounding like a middle school boy, he also brings out the humor in every situation (I will never think of cream puffs in exactly the same way again...).

Though the book is set in 1967-68, and the Vietnam War and politics are mentioned, what is the center of the book is not these historical events, but Holling's growth as an individual. Holling struck me as a typical teenager in his developing empathy, on the one hand seeing how an interaction affected both an adult and his schoolmate and, not too long later, telling his teacher he didn't think she had any problems to speak of. Because of this, even in a first-person narration we get to know several other characters well as Holling comes to understand them better. The only character that seemed rather one-dimensional to me was his father who is, frankly, a jerk. I'm so glad I finally got around to reading this, and will definitely be moving the companion book Okay for Now on my TBR list.
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LibraryThing member cmbohn
Holling Hoodhood - what a name! - is stuck. Half his 7th grade class attends bar mitzvah lessons, the other half attends Catholic class. But Holling is Presbyterian, and that means when everyone else gets out of school early on Wednesday afternoons, he is stuck at school. With his teacher, Mrs.
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Baker, who can't stand him. First she tries having him clean the erasers, but that gets old. So they turn to Shakespeare. Over the course of the year, they cover everything from dealing with bullies to the Vietnam war to parental pressure to escaped rodents to winning the Olympics and all courtesy of the Bard's finest.

I really loved this book. I couldn't put it down to go on vacation today, that's how into it I was. Fortunately it's a short book, so it only took a couple of hours to read the whole thing from beginning to end. Partly it was because I loved Holling. He's such a weenie at first, but he sure grows over the course of the book. His family is a mess. His dad is a control freak of legendary proportions, while his mother is completely passive and his sister is ready to rebel.

Mrs. Baker is a great character too. At first, all we know of her is what Holling can see, and that's a strictly no-fun teacher. But as they spend time together, he comes to see her as a worried military wife, a former Olympian, and even a friend.

I strongly recommend this book. I hope it's not the kind that only adults will read. I think kids would get a lot out of it too. It is very, very funny in parts, and then surprisingly sober in others. Just great.
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LibraryThing member ctpress
Seventh-grader on a Long Island school Holling Hoodhood have to remain at school every wednesday with Mrs. Baker, the English teacher. He’s the only Presbyterian in class - the other kids are Catholic or Jewish and have to go attend Catechism or Hebrew School.

Mrs. Baker begins to teach him
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Shakespeare and Holling is sure she hates him. But slowly he begins to like The Bard and find all kinds of life lessons from the plays he can translate into what’s happening to him in school and at home. A wonderful coming-of-age story set in the late 60’s with the Vietnam War, flower power and the death of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy as the historic backdrop.

Holling Hoodhood fight of bullies, star in a Shakespeare play, falls in love, help his troubled flower-power-sister and stand up to his uncaring father - and last but not least - form a beautiful friendship with Mrs. Baker. The last few chapters - so touching and it all comes together wonderfully.

Joel Johnstone gives a perfect narration as Holling Hoodhood - it was so much fun to listen to. One of the best readings (and listenings) this year.
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LibraryThing member JRlibrary
I don't feel a need to provide a summary because at this point there are 60 reviews of the book already! I don't love it as much as everyone else seems to, mostly because I'm not convinced that a grade seven boy could actually relate to Holling Hoodhood. I think you definitely have to be a decent
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reader to appreciate some of the humour in the book, and I'd never recommend it to a reluctant reader.
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LibraryThing member CBJames
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt presents a humorous look at a year in the life of seventh grader Holling Hoodhood. The year is 1967; social turmoil rages across America, the war in Vietnam is reaching a turning point, but back home Holling Hoodhood has to face the venom of his English teacher,
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Mrs. Baker. Holling is the only Presbyterian in his class. This means that on Wednesdays when the Jewish students leave for Hebrew school and the Catholic students leave for Catechism he has to spend the last few hours of the day alone with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, who would clearly rather have the time for herself. That's why she hates him, or so Holling thinks.

In what Holling suspects is an attempt to torment him, Mrs. Baker decides that since they have the time together they will study the works of Shakespeare and gives him a copy of The Merchant of Venice. Much to Holling's surprise, he likes the play. It's full of great insults like 'pied ninny' that he can use on his family and friends and on the school bullies who won't even know they've been insulted. Over the course of the year Holling and Mrs. Baker form a close bond as he grows to see how much she really cares for her students in spite of her gruff way with them.

Holling faces many of the typical problems seventh grade boys face. He tries out for the track team. He has to deal with a very stern father. He has an older sister who constantly belittles him. There are the school bullies mentioned above and a girl he has an interest in. The world outside intrudes when the cafeteria cook's husband is killed in Vietnam and when Mrs. Baker's husband is listed as missing in action. Holling faces all of these events with such a winning, caring personality and good sense of humor that the book never loses it's lighthearted tone for long.

It took me a while to get into the story, but once I did there was much to enjoy. Holling's classmates provide many scenes of Tom Sawyer like hi-jinks. There are two escaped pet rats who take months to catch and make several very comic scenes possible. The Wednesdays Holling spends working through Shakespeare show that he is an exceptional student, but they do not leave the realm of the possible. Holling reacts to the plays like you'd expect a 12/13-year-old boy to. He thinks Romeo and Juliet are both stupid, for example. (I quite agree with him here.) He likes the curses as I mentioned earlier, he doesn't really see the point of Hamlet until a family crises make it hit close to home and he re-reads it. Holling is telling us about the entire school year, so events are kept moving at an entertianing brisk pace. Each chapter is a blend of humorous scenes and food for thought and each leaves you wanting more until a very satisfying ending.

Though I suspect there may be some wish-fulfillment going on in The Wednesday Wars, but Mr. Schmidt does bring all of his characters to life. Hollings classmates are all individual personalities, a few of them are even complicated. There is an innocence to them that would be hard for me to believe if the story wasn't set in 1967 but they students never become saccharine. There are several adults in the school, all of whom are fully developed characters. YA books like this often have only one or two school employees and those are often stock figures, but here we get several teachers, two principals, one custodian and the cafeteria cook who are all fully portrayed characters all acting like adults. I'm not completely sure that I believe a teacher like Mrs. Baker could really exist, but I want her to. That may be wish fulfillment on my part, but I think that's okay as long as the author and the reader are both in on the wish fulfillment together.

The adults Holling's school are not perfect, they do learn from their students, but they are actually wiser than their students, which is nice to see in a YA book. Holling's parents are not so wise. To say that his father does not understand his son or his daughter greatly understates the situation. There are several points in the book when Holling's father is portrayed as a bad parent, frankly. I'm not sure he is a bad parent, but he does make several serious mistakes; he lets his children down, at least twice, in my view and he is never brought to terms with this. Holling's mother is the only significant adult character who is poorly portrayed. She is a basic wet blanket, completely under the control of her husband. This may be true to the times and the situation, but I was disappointed that we never got any insight into her like we did with most of the other adult characters.

So, is there enough here to make this a good book for younger readers? I think so. I suspect The Wednesday Wars would appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Schwa Was Here or Al Capone Does My Shirts. It has just as much humor in it as those two do, with quite a bit more meat on its literary bones. I'm giving The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt five out of five stars.
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LibraryThing member spartyliblover
Holling Hoodhood, the only Presbyterian in a Catholic and Jewish school community, has to spend his Wednesday afternoons alone with Mrs. Baker who strives to help him grow up through crazy tasks and Shakespeare. Holling, his family, his friends and Mrs. Baker are easy to visualize while reading and
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the reader becomes attached to each character. The story keeps the reader on his toes with twists and turns and great flow throughout the book. The Long Island community in the Vietnam War that the story is placed in helps to make the story great. This book would be excellent in a public library because of the coming of age journey as well as increased perspective of the Vietnam War.
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LibraryThing member ewyatt
Holling Hoodhood has a standing date with his teacher every Wednesday afternoon. Everyone else in his class either has to go to Catholic school or preparation classes for bar/bat mitzvahs. As the sole Presbyterian, Holling and his teacher (who he is convinved hates him) begin the year with manual
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labor and continue with a study of Shakespeare. There are lots of funny and poignant moments in the book. I really thought it was a good read!
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LibraryThing member bocgirl
Holling Hoodhood grows from the sole Presbytarian in his class to a hero able to connect with people in meaningful ways through the medium of Shakespeare, taking chances and doing the right thing. One of those laugh out loud, soulful, gotta love it type books.
LibraryThing member kcarp
This is a largely forgettable book with plot "twists" that vary from completely obvious to nonsensical. It's rarely offensive, but it didn't give any particular insights either.
LibraryThing member litlb00k
I thought this title was incredibly well-written from start to finish and wish it would have won the Newbery Award rather than an honor. It's the wonderful story of a young beginning to turn himself toward adulthood and deciding what kind of person he hopes to become.
LibraryThing member mayaspector
It may have the most boring cover in the world, but this is a great book. I read it because I knew it had won some prizes, and in the beginning I thought it was okay. But the more I read, the more I liked it. A book that can make you laugh out loud AND touch you deeply is a pretty amazing book.

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year is 1967 and Holling is in 7th grade. In those days (at least in Holling's part of the country), the Catholic and Jewish kids were released from school one afternoon a week to go for religious instruction. Holling, being the only Protestant in his class, is stuck with his English teacher, Mrs. Baker, every Wednesday, and he's sure she hates him. For one, she decides that they're going to spend their Wednesday afternoons reading Shakespeare.

Holling has lots to deal with in his life besides Mrs. Baker - things like bullies, escaped rats, the impact of the Vietnam War, and a father who is a real jerk. Although lots of teenagers think their parents are awful, many of them eventually get over it. Holling's father is an honest-to-goodness lout. Holling, however, is not, and the reader can't help cheering for him through the whole book.
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LibraryThing member laurieleewalsh
I loved this book! It's laugh-out-love funny in places and serious in others. I also love the surprise about the teacher's past and how she was a real hero in the story.

Everyone should read this book!
LibraryThing member reader247
First I have to say I loved this book. I have tried reading Shakespeare on my own over the last few years and I knew how much of a struggle it was for me so when this came up in my list of tags I looked and looked for something to get this over with. What a surprise I had finding this book!

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Wednesday Wars is about a young 7th grade boy named Holling Hoodhood. While other students are released from classes on Wednesday afternoons for religious instruction Hollig is left in the charge of his teacher Mrs. Baker. Holling has the preconcieved conception that Mrs. Baker hates him and is doing secret and mysteriously daring things to catch him off guard and make him look bad. As if teenage angst is not enough in itself, Holling's mission is to not fall for anything she might dish out. After many Wednesdays of odd jobs around the classroom, Mrs. Baker decides on reading Shakespeare each week as another plot to catch Holling off his game or is it??
This story is set in a simple small town where Walter Cronkite rules the tv at night with coverage of the Vietnam War and spring breaks are spent at the Woolworths counter drinking icy cold cokes with your friends. This is a great coming of age story! I laughed and I cried ...okay I will admit several times!!!
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LibraryThing member 9re01bev
I'm currently reading this book.It is A.R.
I Don't know challange level
LibraryThing member 9ac01bev
I think this book will be even better now this is when it gets more interseting but im only in May.
I like the part win he runs away from the rats and how his dad says that acertect is a blood sport......
:D :D :D :D
LibraryThing member framberg
This book carries Holling Hoodhood through his 7th grade year, through discovery, loss and growth. While some of the humorous events seem farfetched (being hit by a bus and emerging unscathed, rabid rats), and some of the plot devices a bit predictable (the stern teacher who is ultimately loving,
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the emotionally unavailable father), the sum of this book is more than its parts. Holling, under the auspices of Mrs. Baker, is introduced to Shakespeare, and through Shakespeare to a wealth of human emotion and self discovery. While I might quibble about some of the details - and bemoan the fact that Mr. Schmidt missed an excellent opportunity to explore being the son of a demanding parent and other issues directly applicable to Holling's life by omiting Henry IV, Part I from his character's education in Shakespeare - this was a truly lovely and moving novel. The changes in Holling through his 7th grade year feel genuine and meaningful. He emerges as a kind, intelligent, and thoughtful young man.
For another look at the same period of time (7th grade) in a different era (the 1980's) read David Mitchell's Black Swan Green. The themes of growth and family are quite similar. I think the characters would have had a lot to say to each other.
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LibraryThing member kelleykl
I really loved this book. It's the kind of story every teacher dreams of using to inspire students to read Shakespeare, look beyond teacher and see a real person, and delve into the Vietnam War. The only reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 is because I think there might have been a little
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_too many_ Shakespeare allusions to make the book accesible for young students. Even I didn't get some of the Shakespeare jokes--and I have a degree in English. That aside, the story is a great tale and I will start recommending it to my middle grade students right away.

P.S. to Publishers: Changing up the cover could do you a world of good! It just isn't likely to catch the attention of too many young adults.
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Nebraska Golden Sower Award (Nominee — 2010)
Audie Award (Finalist — 2008)
Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 2010)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

288 p.; 7.63 inches




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