Wednesday Wars is a coming to age historical fiction story about a seventh grader named Holling Hoodhood. Holling is the only Presbyterian student at his school, and he is the only student left there on Wednesday afternoons. He has a father who is never really there for him, and I believe that plays a big part to the story and how it all plays out. Holling starts the year believing that his teacher hates him, but as the year goes on they form a great teacher/student relationship. I believe this is a great book because of the powerful father/son dilemma, the war issues facing them, and the issues Holling faces throughout the book based on his religion. The father/son dilemmas in this book are very powerful.
They are a lot of times when Holling needs or wants his father. Sometimes he needs his attention, sometimes he needs a ride, and many times he merely needed his support. While in the end Mrs. Baker did not end up hating Holling, his father was to concerned with business to even take a second to care about his son. Holling had a very interesting childhood with being the only Presbyterian in his class. The year before he had two friends who were also, but they moved away. That left Holling being the only student left in Mrs. Baker’s class on Wednesday afternoons. He believed that she hated him for being left there, but as time went on they formed a very good relationship. They spend their Wednesdays studying Shakespeare.
They read a new play each month. After the cream puff incident, the Shakespeare paid off for Holling. Holling kind of struggled with friends throughout the whole book to me. While he had some, it seemed there were unwritten stipulations on the friendships. For example, when the children in the class learned of Holling getting a cream puff, they all said that he owed them one. So he saved, and was still short on money. However, the baker needed someone who knew Shakespeare, and Holling traded being in the play for cream puffs for the class. Before he was given the cream puff, a handful of the other students threatened him on the way out with promises of death, doing number 408, and knowing where he lived.
The war also played a big part in this particular story. For starters you had Mrs. Baker’s MIA husband. Then you had Hollings sister, Heather, who was antiwar and very much a flower power child. This book gives many insights to what the sixties were like. A very moving war inspired part was when Holling notices that Mrs. Baker is staring at the news just hoping to get a tiny glimpse of her lost husband. There is a lot if heartache going through this scene and it very much shows us why she starts out mean like when the book begins. Mai Thi is a very interesting character. I find it wonderful how it was written where she is accepted inside the school by teachers and students, yet she is an easy target to anyone else in the town that may have lost someone in the war.
Mai Thi is a Vietnamese student, and is there during the Vietnam War. While she has a small incident with the lunch lady, whose husband was killed, they make up and become very close. One more great touch that I must write about is how the author included some very important moment from the sixties, but he did it in an unbiased way. He talked about the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, the Vietnam War, and President Johnson’s decision not to return back to office. While I was not alive in the sixties, I am sure all of those had a very big impact on the world then. Even now they are huge events that we learn about.
Gary Schmidt did an excellent job of giving us, and the youth, knowledge about the sixties along with the comical situations Holling finds himself in. To wrap up I am going to say that this was one heck of a book. I, for one, HATE history. However, this book would make a great literature/history book. It could tie into both classes in either late middle school or high school and be great.
I think the children would enjoy reading the funny ways Holling gets himself into trouble without trying, and they can also soak up some history while they do that. Gary Schmidt has a wonderful writing style, and makes an excellent plot, sequence of events, theme, setting, and characters. While there were many characters to keep track of, the story would not have been the same without a single one! Thank you for this assignment.