The Wednesday Wars, author Gary D. Schmidt introduces us to Holling Hoodhood (I didn't care for this name, but loved the character anyway), a seventh grade boy whose father is grooming him to take over the family's architectural firm, whose world is thrown into chaos by the Vietnam War, whose sister is determined to be her own person, and whose teacher is out to get him.
With many reminders that he is representing the Hoodhood name, Holling is urged to impress this teacher who clearly doesn't like him (because she is stuck with him during a special time on Wednesdays when all the other students head to Catechism or Hebrew School). As the Wednesdays play out, and she fills his afternoons with classroom chores and assignments from Shakespeare, Holling is forced to navigate through countless obstacles and adventures. He accidentally sets the classroom rats free while cleaning their cages. A bully is after him. The class expects him to come through and provide them with cream puffs. And, worst of all, he has to wear yellow tights with feathers on the rear when he plays Ariel in a Shakespearean theater production.
The book was equal parts funny and tender. Frankly, I can't wait to read this book to my younger sons in a few years. The parts about Shakespeare give basic plot-line information but can easily be understood without a well-defined knowledge of Shakespeare. Plus, they drive home the point that Shakespearean plays are still relevant today and might even encourage boys to check them out (since the plays are full of stabbings, poisonings, witches, monsters, storms, and things that excite the boy imagination). Finally, I have to say that it was refreshing to find a book that appeals to boys without resorting to foul language, gross bodily functions, or sexual exploits. It was a good, clean book which I felt glued to from beginning to end.