May 21, 2009

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

10 of 10: As good a book as you could find anywhere, The Wednesday Wars is the book I would give to every person I know.

A few weeks, while we were in Utah, Bart's dad asked me to give him a list of five really great YA/children books. This book was on that list. That's how much I love it.

I read this book last year and meant to write about it for weeks, but I could never quite get my mind around what to say about it and eventually it had been six months and then a year since I'd read it and some of the details were starting to escape me. So I reread it (this time listening to it on CD), wondering if it would still be any good and discovered that if anything, I loved it more this time around.

This is a book I want to shout about, a book that moves me to tears with its sweetness and then makes me laugh seconds later. The Wednesday Wars has everything - humor, tragedy, friendship, sports, school, family, and even a tiny bit of romance.

The hero of the story is Holling Hoodhood. He is convinced his seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates him. See, every Wednesday afternoon the Jewish and Catholic kids in his class go off to their respective religious classes; Holling is the lone Presbyterian and so he's left behind at the school. Mrs. Baker decides they will spend their afternoons together studying Shakespeare; obviously she hates his guts. His father is insistent that he not anger Mrs. Baker because her family owns the Baker Sports Emporium which is currently looking for an architecture firm to design a new building. And Mr. Hoodhood just so happens to be an architect.

Even now having read it twice and laboring over this review for days, I can't find any good way to sum up this book. It's not just about Shakespeare. It's not just about Holling realizing that his dad is deeply flawed and maybe it's because, like Shylock, it's just what is expected of him. It's not just about his quiet town and the contrast with the distant (and sometimes not so distant) turbulance of the Vietnam War. It's not just about the slow recognition that Mrs. Baker is more than a Shakespeare-loving, red-pen wielding teacher. It's not just about giant escaped rats living in the school ceiling or cream puffs or a Micky Mantle-autographed baseball.

It's about all of this and so much more. I don't think of this book as having a narrative arc; rather it's bits of Holling's life added together to make a rich and complex picture of a seventh-grade boy dealing with a life that is, by turns, idyllic and complicated and difficult. Just like real life.

If I could write any book, this is one I would want to have written. The story is perfect and the writing is better than that.

You should read this book.

21 comments:

  1. I read (well, listened on CD to) this kinda recently based on your Goodreads review. I LOVED it!!! Thank you. I agree, I don't know how to sum it up either, but it's fabulous. I liked too that, to me at least, it seemed so gender neutrally likable. Definitely adding it to the list of books I will recommend for both my daughters AND my son someday.

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  2. I've read this book AND listened to it on CD, and I love it.

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  3. Hi, this is Sherry's sister-in-law. I have been following your blog for a few weeks (and thoroughly enjoy it). I don't have a lot of time to read with 3 kids, but I love to read. So I was just wondering if you have ever given any book a rating of 10, and if so, what is it (so I can read it)? I don't want to waste my time with less than stellar books, like the Twilight series (did I just type that out loud?).

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  4. YOU are not allowed to enjoy anything else until I catch up, and since I work 9 million hours a week and have two children to slow me down, it's gonna be a while!

    And I'd also like to know what other books you've rated a 10.

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  5. I'll have to put this on my to-read list. Thank heavens summer vacation is just around the corner for me!

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  6. I LOVED this book. Definitely a must-read.

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  7. Not only did I love this book, but I love the author. He taught several classes I took at Calvin College, and was one of the profs who led the month-long "New England Saints" class in and around Boston that I was fortunate to be in as well. Gary Schmidt is an all-around great person, and I recommend all his books (though this one is particularly good). Lizzie Bright is probably just as good, though.

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  8. I read all of your reviews, but I don't always do anything about them. This one I immediately added to my Good Reads "To Read" list. I'm excited to get to it.

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  9. My sentiments precisely. Recommend w/o reservation. everyone should read and even own it!

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  10. This is one of my favorite books EVER. I have bought it twice, then passed it on to someone else and now I don't know where either copy is!

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  11. Love, love, love it! So. Much.

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  12. I loved this book when I read it last year.

    What were the other 4 books on the list for Bart's dad?

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  13. I've seen this one around and have been interested in it, but you definitely have me really wanting to read it now. I hate the feeling of not knowing what to write about a book or how to write about a book, but really--those are the books that I usually love the most (it's easy to write about a book that was just kind of blah).

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  15. (Aw man, came over to see if you replied to that last one, but I see it's gone now!)

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  16. Ok- I'll cue it up.......BTW- when are you just going to break down and write a book yourself?

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  17. Comment removed by author! Maybe she realized she was being totally stupid and needlessly judge-y?

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  18. Dude, I've never even heard of this. But it's quite an endorsement you're giving it.

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  19. I am getting ready to go running tomorrow with my new iPod and it was really nice to be able to come to your blog and find a highly recommended book that I knew would be available in audio format-thanks!

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  20. Alright, so I'm reentering the blogging world (or trying to) and one of the first thing's I've realized I need to do is suck up my nerve and actually start commenting on the blogs I read constantly (yours being on my favorite, everyday reads list, no pun intended. *deep breath* So hello, I love your blog, and I'm a terrible commenter. There. I did it. If you see my name commenting again, we'll know I didn't chicken out.

    Now for a question: I'm posting this here, because this is the book I just finished, and I've just started trying to work out exactly how to write about the books I read, even a paragraph or two. So I want to know, do you follow a template? Do you try and hit some of the same general points every time you review a book?

    I suppose I could read/reread through a bunch and try to answer my own questions, but I'm inherently bad at picking out patterns. So what do you do?

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  21. Oh, and since I don't know if my email is accessible, since I post through Wordpress, it's jennapirrie@gmail.com.

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