The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

Do you remember watching The Wonder Years? I wasn’t always allowed to watch it – my dad didn’t like it when Kevin’s dad would curse too much. I haven’t seen every episode, though I think I know the general plot of the series. What I remember about watching it, though, was how it made me feel. I am going to hope that it made you feel the same way. Surely I am not alone in this. I have seen many online discussions centering on how we need The Wonder Years on DVD with all the original music. Which is true. I may not have seen all of it, but I definitely remember watching the finale. Here, this is the part you want to see:

Excuse me, it’s gotten kind of dusty in here.

I say all that so that you will understand that it is from a place of great affection and with the highest of praise that I say that The Wednesday Wars is, essentially, The Wonder Years in a book. Not that it’s a rip-off. Just that it’s about the same time period, and that it gives you the same feelings of nostalgia and hope.

Holling Hoodhood, our protagonist, is the only Protestant in his class. Every Wednesday afternoon, the Catholics leave for catechism and the Jewish students leave for Hebrew school. And Holling is stuck with Mrs. Baker. Or, possibly, Mrs. Baker is stuck with Holling. She decides that together they will read Shakespeare. What that really means is that together, they will learn about life. About loyalty and friendship and love and perseverance. About the Vietnam War, architecture, baseball, and cross country. Also there are some giant rats and some really excellent cream puffs.

There are quite a few similarities to The Wonder Years, truth be told – Holling’s inflexible father, the way he sees his parents drifting apart, his flower child older sister. But those things are only a part of Holling’s story, just as the Shakespeare is only one component. This is Holling’s story of how he begins to learn who he is in the midst of such tumultuous times. It manages to balance thoughtful, serious passages with incredible humor. It is, in short, a fun book to read. It’s on the Battle of the Books list this year, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I give it one of my highest recommendations. (And, in case it carries any weight with you – Mike liked it so much this summer that he read it twice. He also studied it with his fifth grade book club this summer, and almost all of them loved it. What are you waiting for? You love The Wonder Years, right? You’ll love this, too.)

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    The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt – Through a Glass, Darkly