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The Wednesday Wars

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Wednesday Wars Book Poster Image
Funny, breathtakingly poignant '60s coming-of-age tale.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 24 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.


Twinkies, Coke, Ford Mustang.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Middle schoolers smoke in the bathroom at school.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 year old Written by5th grade teach... March 4, 2011

Read this before you are out of junior high!

Middle school and junior high students should love this book. I read it to my students every year and they are spellbound throughout. I've noticed many h... Continue reading
Parent of a 11 and 13 year old Written bydocbot July 28, 2010

I didnt like it

My daughter found it dry and not a good read.
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 sch... Continue reading
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, yo... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

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