I read a lot on the subway. I also read walking down the street. Geeky, I know. There are some books, however, that are too fine to be read while in transit. These books deserve quiet time, me in a sunny spot, with a cup of tea and plenty of time for musing and rereading. Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars deserves this treatment. It also deserves prizes. Lots of prizes.
I started reading this book on the subway, and although I recognized almost immediately that it was wrong, wrong to be reading this when I could not devote 100% of my attention to savoring its perfection, I couldn’t make myself stop. I was laughing and laughing in front of my fellow commuters, and I didn’t care. There are few books that actually make me run down my street to my house so that I can read my guy the funniest parts without even taking off my coat first, and only being about 40 pages into the story.
I don’t think I want to describe much of what this story is about, because there are plenty of plot summaries out there. So in a few sentences: It is towards the end of the Vietnam War, as Holling Hoodhood enters 7th grade. He is the only Presbyterian kid in his class, which means that on Wednesday afternoons, when his Jewish and Catholic classmates are at synagogue and catechism, he is alone with his English teacher, Mrs. Baker, who seems to hate his guts. After much verbal sparring and power tripping, Mrs. Baker settles on making Holling read Shakespeare’s plays, which effect subtle, yet profound changes in his world. All you really need to know is that The Wednesday Wars is a book that will stay with you, that becomes a part of you. The voice feels so true, with characters drawn perfectly and consistently from beginning to end. Not to mention the fact that it is hilarious and touching. I love that it conveys that over time, we are transformed by the seemingly ordinary, often bizarre events of day to day existence, and that the possibility of connecting with family and other people in our lives is what we’re all really striving for, even when we don’t realize it.
In kids lit land, the phrase “destined to become a classic,” gets tossed around so frequently that most of the time, it hardly warrants a raised eyebrow. The Wednesday Wars has already earned a place on my “special shelf, ” where I keep books that I go to when I need to remember what I believe in, and what I find inspiring and reaffirming.
So I guess you could say, it’s already achieved classic status in my humble library. Prizes or not, I imagine that’s what every author hopes for.
The Wednesday Wars is published by Clarion books.