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Tess Hoffmann

Mr. McConnell

English 9

May 18, 2017

The Wednesday Wars Book Report

The Wednesday Wars is a historical fiction novel written by Gary D. Schmidt. The novel

tells the story of a seventh grade young man and the happiness and disappointments he

experiences during the 1967-1968 school year. The story is set in suburban Long Island, New

York, and the Vietnam War provides an important backdrop for the novel. The Wednesday Wars

is a recipient of the Newbury Honor Medal, awarded in 2008.

The main character of the novel is the narrator, Holling Hoodhood. Holling attends

Camillo Junior High School where every Wednesday at 1:55pm, half of his class attends Hebrew

lessons, while the other half goes to Catechism. As the only Presbyterian in his class, he is

forced to spend this time with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Holling is convinced that Mrs. Baker

hates him because she is responsible for supervising his time each Wednesday afternoon. In fact,

the first sentence of the novel states, 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. (Schmidt 1). Mrs.

Baker gives Holling odd jobs to do initially, but at the end of September, she decides to introduce

him to the literary writings of Shakespeare. These writings will have a major impact on Holling

as he faces the challenges of growing up. He encounters conflict with his family, his friends, and

even his crush, Meryl Lee, not to mention some of the other wacky and humorous experiences

he faces during the school year. The Vietnam War also plays a role in Hollings life, since the

spouses of two of the schools teachers are in active duty and he also witnesses discrimination
against a Vietnamese student in his class. These factors add to the tension and uncertainty that

Holling experiences during this time. Surprisingly, Mrs. Baker turns out to be the hero in this

story as her relationship with Holling changes drastically throughout the novel.

One objective of the author in writing this book is to tell a story about the power of love

and friendship. This objective is met and demonstrated as Holling and Mrs. Baker develop a

strong teacher-student bond throughout the novel. Mrs. Baker helps Holling grow as a person by

introducing him to Shakespeare and later coaching him in cross-country. He in turn supports her

while her husband is in active duty in Vietnam. Holling is also supportive of his sister, Heather,

when she runs away to try to find herself. He is the one who goes out to find her and shows her

great compassion and love when she returns home. A second objective of the author is to

entertain the reader. Gary Schmidt demonstrates this objective through the use of humor,

figurative language and other events in the story that catch the attention of the reader. He uses

clever metaphors, similes and personification to entertain the reader throughout the novel. One

interesting simile used in the book reflects Hollings recently acquired interest in Shakespeare.

When his classmates pressure him to bring cream puffs in for the class, he describes his

experience to a character in The Merchant of Venice by stating I remembered the death threats

hanging over me like Shylocks knife hanging over Antonios chest. (Schmidt, ). The authors

discussion of serious events is often given a humorous twist. When the teachers conduct Atomic

Bomb Awareness month in May and schedule drills, Holling comments, I dont think that any of

us believed that Leonid Brezhnev was sitting in the deep, dark rooms of the Kremlin, plotting to

drop an atomic bomb on Camillo Junior High. (Schmidt, 209). I would recommend this book

for young adults from middle school through high school and both male and female students
would enjoy this novel. However, there are many lessons in the book that would be appreciated

by people of any age so this is a novel that would also be enjoyed by adults.

There are several themes in The Wednesday Wars, and these include personal growth, the

power of literature and the conflict Holling has with his father. Holling demonstrates a

significant transformation during his seventh grade year, and he is very passive at the beginning

of the book. When he tells his older sister, Heather, that Mrs. Baker hates my guts. (Schmidt

9), she replies, Then, Holling, you might try getting some. (Schmidt 10). Holling changes

from a boy who has been somewhat alone to one who becomes a part of a larger social structure.

He becomes confident and able to express himself. When Holling goes to see his baseball idol,

Mickey Mantle, for an autograph, he is treated very poorly by the legend because he is dressed in

a costume from a play. Holling is hurt and disappointed and He also learns how to form a

friendship with Mrs. Baker that changes from one of student-teacher to one that works well

despite their differences in age and authority. He also learns how to express love when he has a

romance with Meryl Lee. Finally, Holling learns that he must deal with the changes brought

about by the Vietnam War. He transitions from a position of ignorance on the war, to one of

awareness and an understanding of how this affects his life and the lives of the people around

him. The second theme is that of the importance of literature in education. Holling learns

important lessons on life from his Shakespeare readings. The power of literature is emphasized

often throughout the novel. The third theme relates to the conflict Holling has with his father.

He is intimidated by his father and struggles with feelings to please him versus becoming his

own person. Hollings father is an ambitious architect who is determined that Holling will one

day take over the family business. He believes that nothing is as important as the family

business, not even the good of the family. Thus, he is often not available to support Holling
when he needs help. This relationship with his father also shows Holling what happens when the

love we need to live a happy life is absent. The author uses the incident of the roof collapsing on

the familys Perfect House as a symbol of the lack of love and support Holling feels from his

father.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. It is very engaging and

allows the reader to feel that they are personally experiencing what Holling is feeling while

reading it. The chapters of the book are arranged by the months of the school year, which is an

interesting format, and this helps the reader follow Hollings story in chronological order, as well

as experience the various seasons and holidays and events that occur each month. The author

also uses humor combined with a bit of sarcasm, and this provides a lighter tone. The author

uses a serious tone when necessary, particularly when he is discussing the Vietnam War. Even

though the discussion of the war occurs in the background of the novel, the impact of the war on

the characters lives is evident to the reader. For this reason, the book is very realistic and many

of Hollings experiences are also realistic. Thus, any young adult reading the novel would be

able to relate to what Holling describes as he moves through his seventh grade year in middle

school.