The Wednesday Wars Original edition:
Gary D. Schmidt. The Wednesday Wars. New York: Clarion Books, 2007. 264 p.
Russian edition published by Pink Giraffe publishing house in 2015.
ISBN 978-5-4370-0105-9 is not an easy book to understand, but it’s a very interesting one. The plot centers around a boy named Holling, who lives in a town where half of the residents go to one temple, and half to another. The city is even divided into the north and south sides. Our hero lives right in the middle. All of his classmates have religious classes on Wednesdays, while he has to stay at school with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. At first, Holling thinks Mrs. Baker hates him. She makes him pound the chalkboard erasers and clean out the cage of the classroom’s pet rats. Mrs. Baker also forces him to read Shakespeare (which, by the way, inspired me to start reading Shakespeare myself). Gradually, however, Mrs. Baker and Holling reach an understanding.
The Wednesday Wars is really the story of two people: Mrs. Baker and Holling. Mrs. Baker is married to Lieutenant Baker, who is at war in Vietnam. Mrs. Baker loves her husband and really misses him. She even takes her class camping once—even though she hates camping—just because Lieutenant Baker always loved it.
Lots of things happen to Holling but I would say two events are the most important. First, he finds сommon ground with his older sister, which many boys his age don’t manage to do. He really helps her out when she runs away to California penniless and really needs money, by sending her his cross-country winnings.
The second important event is his argument with his father about religion. Holling’s dad never listened to him and always assumed that Holling would be an architect, just like he is (something Holling didn’t particularly want). His father insisted that for a real man, a profession and the ability to support a family were more important than religion. But Holling was able to stand his ground.
The end of the book is interesting. Lieutenant Baker returns, but the author doesn’t describe his reunion with Mrs. Baker at the airport. Holling says, paraphrasing Shakespeare, that if we don’t figure out for ourselves what Mr. Baker did when he saw his wife, “toads, beetles, bats!” and “a southwest blow on ye and blister you all o’er.” Some will probably think that he ran to her, others that he screamed from happiness. But I think he smiled like he had never smiled before.
It’s very interesting to observe how Holling and Mrs. Baker’s relationship changes over the course of the book. By the middle of the novel, Holling is no longer sure that Mrs. Baker hates him, and he starts to like her better too.
Yekaterina Surovtseva, 12, Moscow, “Book Expert of the XXI Century” finalist
Transated from the Russian by Alisa Cherkasova
Artwork from the Russian edition of the book by Darya Bogdanova-Chanchikova
Originally published in 2014
Read an interview with Gary D. Schmidt here.
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