The Wednesday Wars

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

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 29 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Shakespeare, his plays, and his wisdom figure in the plot. Events in the larger world during the 1967-68 school year unfold in the background, including the Vietnam War and the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy.

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 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 and 13-year-old Written bydocbot July 28, 2010

I didnt like it

My daughter found it dry and not a good read.
Adult Written byReaderOfBooks May 6, 2020

Clever Book

I read this aloud to my 9 year old and we loved it. In fact, we binge read it over 5 days. It made us laugh, cry and think. It's a very clever and funny bo... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byThePickeledEgg April 7, 2021


I’m in 7th grade and our teacher made us read it. It was so boring and the chapters were so long. I hate it. Holding or whatever his name was is so over dramati... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 4, 2012

Boring as boring gets

AWFUL BOOK! Don't read unless you like to be bored out of your mind!

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 the author use humor to help tell his story?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love middle school and coming-of-age stories

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