Monday, February 4, 2008

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Anything to get out of school, right? As long as it doesn't get you in trouble or in the doctor's office, that is. Wednesday afternoons are dedicated to religious education at Camillo Junior High in 1967. The Jewish half of class attends Hebrew School at Temple Beth-El and the Catholic half attends Catechism at Saint Adelbert's. That's everyone in seventh grade.

Except Holling Hoodhood, the seventh grade's only Presbyterian.

Due to this theological quirk, Holling is Mrs. Baker's only student on Wednesday afternoons. She's thrilled. And she hates Holling, at least according to him. What more proof would a seventh grader need of a teacher's true loathing than to be assigned...of all things...gasp!...Shakespeare?!? Alone! So, starting with The Merchant of Venice, Holling takes on the Bard. His new Shakespearian education (and appreciation) lands him a gig as Ariel the fairy in The Tempest, complete with yellow tights and feathers on his, well, I'll let Holling disclose the exact location of the feathers.

Not that it's all Shakespeare and feathers on the butt (sorry, Holling.) Holling's career obsessed father refuses to acknowledge his flower child sister's growing political beliefs. The war in Vietnam runs throughout the story, but despite evenings with Walter Cronkite and teachers' husbands serving overseas, the war doesn't overwhelm the reader. There's also a few escaped (monster-sized mutant) rats in the school, Doug Swieteck's brother, unlucky cream puffs, the aforementioned yellow tights, and Holling's relationship with Meryl Lee, the daughter of his father's main competitor. In the end Holling doesn't necessarily choose his destiny, but he does come to terms with the main person who will decide it. Himself. Tights and all.

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