The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (2008 Newbery Honor Award)
At Camillo Junior High School, Wednesday afternoons are spent in Hebrew classes, Catechism classes, or if you’re the only Presbyterian like Holling HoodHood, left behind at school with a teacher that absolutely despises you. Or so Holling believes. On Wednesday afternoons, Mrs. Baker assigns Shakespeare after Shakespeare reading assignments for Holling. He is convinced that she is out to make his life miserable because of all the horrible assignments and tasks that she has he do. Surprisingly enough, he begins to enjoy the readings and begins to parallel school life, friends, and family with characters from Shakespeare’s work.
The book has so many interesting elements: the Vietnam War, bullies, Vietnamese refugees, baseball, Walter Cronkite, Shakespeare, theatre, soldiers missing in action, flower child war protests, assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, track meets, dysfunctional family life. The author did a great job of weaving all of these elements into a well written story that clearly defines the struggles and social concerns of a 7th grader during the 1960s in upper state New York.
This book lends itself to selling “classical” works in a contemporary setting. I always find it refreshing when an author references classical literature in their books and hope that it peaks enough curiosity in the readers to pursue reading the “old” stuff. I believe this one will do just that! I am curious to see what the students think about it.