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The Wednesday Wars

Funny, breathtakingly poignant '60s coming-of-age tale.
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What parents need to know

Positive messages

Don't let the limitations of your family hold you back. Keep hope alive. Don't let bullies keep you down. Shakespeare isn't boring.

Positive role models

Holling is an angst-ridden 11-year-old who tries to do what's right while under pressure from his overbearing father. He opens up to the wisdom of Shakespeare and opens his heart. Mrs. Baker is the thoughtful teacher who gets Holling reading Shakespeare and helps his family in a variety of ways.


Two rats are run over by a bus. Holling deals with a bully. The story is told against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the assassinations of the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

Not applicable
Not applicable

Twinkies, Coke, Ford Mustang.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Middle schoolers smoke in the bathroom at school.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Newbery Honor Book The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, is a poignant coming-of-age story involving the funny misadventures of Long Island, New York seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood and his unlikely discovery of Shakespeare in the turbulent academic year of 1967-68. There are two references to middle school students smoking, and a scene of two rats run over by a bus.

What's the story?

On Wednesdays afternoons half of Holling's class leaves school early for catechism class. The other half leaves early for Hebrew school. That leaves Presbyterian Holling alone every Wednesday afternoon with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Neither of them is happy at the prospect, and Holling is sure Mrs. Baker hates him as a result. At first Mrs. Baker just has Holling clean erasers, but then decides to make better use of the time by introducing him to Shakespeare. And as events in the larger world during the 1967-68 school year unfold in the background, Holling begins to learn about himself, his family, friends, and the mysterious adult world.

Is it any good?


It's a wonderful thing when an author can bring the reader to tears without anything sad happening. It's even better when it's done in the course of what would normally be described as "hilarious misadventures." Author Gary D. Schmidt accomplishes this by getting inside the head of a bright but fairly typical goofball seventh-grader who's doing the opposite of what so many kids at that age do -- opening his heart to the world.

With the prim prodding of his dry, no-nonsense teacher, and a big dollop of help from the Bard, Holling learns to see into the hearts of others, which causes him to stand up to his overbearing father, to care for his floundering older sister when she needs him, to recognize the depth of his friendships, to see the humanity in his teachers, and ... to begin to really understand Shakespeare. This is a funny and breathtakingly moving book, because in the end there's little that's as funny and moving as growing up -- except perhaps growing into a wise and loving person.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Shakespeare helps Holling understand his life, and the ways in which his life helps him understand Shakespeare. Why does he like using Shakespeare's phrases so much? How does reading Shakespeare relate to the rest of his life?

  • Have you read other books by Gary D. Schmidt? How do you think The Wednesday Wars compares?

  • How does teh author use humor to help tell his story?

Book details

Author:Gary D. Schmidt
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great boy role models, History, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Clarion Books
Publication date:May 1, 2007
Number of pages:264
Award:Newbery Medal and Honors

This review of The Wednesday Wars was written by

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Teen, 17 years old Written byPieCakeCookie123 April 22, 2010


I don't love it or hate it... BUT IT WAS BOOO-RING! The idea wasn't bad, but it's not a book I would choose, considering I had to read it for school. I am a Sisterhood of the Traveling pants and Harry Potter person. But this was just stupid. Sorry to Wednesday Wars fans!!!
Teen, 13 years old Written bymaureen102 March 12, 2010

Tweens and Under

It's more for kid's age 8 to 12 but I read it, I liked it but also it's more of a book for boys then girls
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old January 7, 2012

Great Review!

it is a very good book- for people SEVENTH grade and older! They do make A BUNCH of references to Shakespear while if you are reading in, like, fourth grade, you wouldn't understand. They do make references about "killing Holling if he didn't bring cream puffs", "knowing where he lived", and all about the war going on in the 70's, flower children, and hippies. So if you are 12,older, or in junior high, this is a MUST READ, but if you are 10 or under, it's best you find a new book.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much consumerism