Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shakespeare and cream puffs

Ever get asked 'what's your favorite book?' My answer is usually 'I have lots of favorites.' When I was a kid I loved The Great Brain series and The Three Investigators books. As a teenager I loved both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but for different reasons. As an adult I loved the Harry Potter series, especially the first and the last. And classics like Robinson Crusoe and The Mysterious Island would be mentioned, and there are many histories and biographies I count among my favorites. One newer favorite I would probably mention consistently is The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.

Wednesday Wars - Library EditionHolling Hoodhood has a problem (besides his name, of course): he's a Presbyterian. And on Wednesday afternoons all the Jewish kids go to Hebrew classes and the Catholic kids go to catechism. That leaves just Holling in Mrs. Baker's 7th grade class at 2pm - and neither of them are happy about it. When she can't send him back to 6th grade math she puts him to work pounding the chalk dust out of the erasers (something they did back in 1967) but that ends up in a minor disaster. So she decides they will spend their time more productively by reading Shakespeare, which convinces Holling that Mrs. Baker hates him. But he's got other problems as well: his parents are drifting apart because his dad is consumed with his architectural business, his older sister (who also hates him) is causing tensions at home because she wants to be a "flower child," and his friends are mad because he got a cream puff. And wait till you read what he has to wear! But Shakespeare has a few lessons to teach, and some of them are important.

Told from Holling's perspective, this is the kind of book I loved to read as a kid but which doesn't come along often enough. Whether you grew up in the 60s or are growing up now, it resonates with some of the ridiculous situations we sometimes find ourselves in - and the occasionally painful process of finding our way in the world. It's not all laughs and frequently I found myself drying my eyes, but Mr. Schmidt has an amazing way with words that makes the story personal. I liked it so much I got the audiobook for the family to listen to in the car - and it quickly became a favorite of the whole family. (The reader sounds similar to the narrator on "The Wonder Years" and reads the story perfectly, right down to the sarcasm often present in the text.)

No comments:

Post a Comment