My good friend Sharlene politely
Written in 2007, The Wednesday Wars is about an 11-year-old boy growing up in Long Island. The year is 1967 and because Holling Hoodhood is neither Catholic nor Jewish and does not have a Hebrew or Catechism class to attend on Wednesdays, he finds himself the only student in 7th grade. Just Holling the Presbyterian, and his teacher, Mrs. Baker every Wednesday for the entire school year. At first, Mrs. Baker has him keep himself busy by cleaning the classroom, the coat room and even worse, the desks. But as time passes, she has him start reading Shakespeare and writing essays. Clearly annoyed and starting to hate her even more, Holling has no choice but to comply. His compliance leads to an eventual appreciation of Shakespeare which in a round-about way gets him the starring role in a local play. Although he must wear tights as the star of the play, the rest of his year is filled with normal 7th-grade-boy things. A girl crush. Sneaking away from school to watch Yankee baseball games. A love/hate relationship with his older sister. But what is not normal and the most wonderful part of the book is the warm and inspiring bond he forms with Mrs. Baker. They navigate the year together one Wednesday at a time and find that more often than not they are all each other has. They are exactly what the other one needs during some of the most difficult moments in their lives. It is a beautiful relationship and a very well-written book.
As I mentioned before, the book is set in 1967. That means the Vietnam War was center stage as were air raid drills and telegraphs from the front. Mrs. Baker's grown son is serving his first tour, air raid sirens go off almost daily and telegraph deliveries arrive at the school way too often. Again, the war part of this book touched home to me but it was also extremely relevant to the time period.
I can't say enough good things about this book. It's touching and sweet and appropriate in so many ways. My almost 5th-grader did read it last summer without me knowing and absolutely loved it. However, I wish she would have waited a year or two. She is an advanced reader, so that was not the problem. The problem was that a lot of the book went right over her head. She had no clue what Vietnam was (sadly, she just figured it was another war like the ones we are in now), thought the air raid drills were something they made up, and didn't see what all the fuss about the main character meeting Mickey Mantle was all about (obviously I have failed her in the baseball history department). Basically, the historical parts of the book were wasted on her. I think for that reason it is more appropriately suited for 12-18 year-olds.
The Wednesday Wars has secured a spot in my Top Five Favorites of all time. Yes, it really is THAT good. Read it. Or I will tell Sharlene.