The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Best modern fiction I’ve read in a long time.
The author is a Calvin College English professor.
The plot involves a 7th grader who has to spend an hour alone with his teacher during the 60s (Vietnam War features prominently). She teaches him Shakespeare, and he loves it. It becomes part of his vocabulary and thought process in interesting ways. He realizes his teacher is a person with her own griefs and troubles. She helps him in personal ways, and he returns the favor.
The writing is excellent word-craft. Strings you thought dropped reappear several chapters later. The frustrations of a typical Junior Higher come alive. He masterfully weaves Shakespearean themes and quotes with early adolescent troubles. You’re giddy laughing one minute and near tears the next.
Themes include dealing with flawed parents, reconciling with friends after reckless words, runaway teenagers, racial prejudice, war in the news and casualties that hit home, and more. It has a Forest Gump feel for a while – deaths of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Paul McCartney, etc.
Read this book out loud to your 11-14 year olds, especially after taking them through some Shakespeare.
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