The Wednesday Wars

by Gary D. Schmidt project by Joseph Levien

The Shortage of Cream Puffs

This story is about a boy named Holling Hoodhood. The time period of this story is during the Vietnam War in 1967-1968. Holling is the protagonist and he is the narrator of the story. He goes to the school Camillo Junior High in Long Island. Holling’s teacher hates his guts because he has the lowest grades in the class. Mrs. Baker makes him read Shakespeare stories and books on his own time as a punishment. He is also the protagonist because he is always against someone or someone is against him. Doug Swieteck’s brother is always making fun of him because he was dressed up as a fairy in a play. The girl he likes, Meryl Lee Kowalski, and an immigrant student, Mai Thi are always threatening to kill him if he doesn’t bring cream puffs. The protagonist Holling always has something to deal with.

Holling is naughty and he is always in trouble with his friends or his teacher. He is always tripping someone or hovering over his teacher’s desk when she is grading his test. Every Wednesday Holling has to stay back because he doesn’t go to religious classes. On page 15 it says, “I left my right foot behind. And Doug Swieteck’s hairy brother tripped over it.” This is one example of him getting into trouble and doing something that he shouldn't.

$18,000 for Buddy Harrelson

In the book The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt there are many artifacts which mark the time period. “Today the Mets decided to pay Buddy Harrelson eighteen thousand dollars a year … just to play baseball. Can you imagine that?” pg. 107. This shows that people did not make as much money as they do today. Holling’s sister says “There is a war going on in Vietnam, Holling.” This quote represents the time period of the story. Another example of this time period would be, “ Mr. Kowalski came home and told us what he had heard on the car radio: that Martin Luther King Jr., who was in Memphis helping striking sanitation workers, had been shot and killed.” pg. 190. This quote shows when Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed.

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What happened on May 4, 1970?

  1. (Slightly out of order) April 28, 1967. Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali refuses to be drafted to fight in Vietnam based on religious grounds. He says: “I ain’t got no quarrel with the Vietcong.”

“Early morning, April 4, a shot rings out in the Memphis sky…Free at last, they ask for your life, but they could not take your pride...” U2, Pride (In the Name of Love)

2. April 4 1968 Martin Luther King Jr is shot and killed by James Earl Ray in Tennessee on the deck on his second story motel room.This has to do with my story, because my story takes place in 1968 and there is a scene when Holling’s friends father announces the news.

3. Robert F. Kennedy Assassination, June 6, 1968. The Presidential- candidate was shot by Sirhan Sirhan in Los Angeles.

4. At Summer Olympics, also known as the Mexico City games 1968. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their hands, wearing black gloves, in non-violent protest for civil rights while on the podium after winning medals in the 200 meter race.

5. Chicago Police Riot, August 1968. People were rioting in Chicago and cops sent dogs to attack the black people and the dogs were biting people.

6. Kent State Shootings, May 4, 1970. During a peaceful protest of the Vietnam War, the Ohio National Guard, opens fire killing four students and wounding nine others.

7. Fall of Saigon, end of Vietnam War, 1975.The Vietcong army was called Saigon and the Saigon surrendered and everyone called the surrender the Fall of Saigon.

8 November, 1982, Vietnam War Memorial opens in Washington D.C.

9. 2015 This year is the 50 year anniversary of the Vietnam War.

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My River Not Yours

In the book Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, Holling Hoodhood, a 13 year old boy who is also the protagonist, experiences many problems during the Vietnam War. This character slowly changes throughout the story and begins to understand his teacher. The setting of this story is in Long Island, NY between the years 1967 and 1968. One of Holling’s best friends, Danny Hupfer a jewish boy, has a crush on a Vietnamese girl, Mai Thi. Mai is always picked on because she is different, and Danny stands up for her every time. Because of the war they faced many challenges and had to be prepared for the worst.

During the Vietnam War, Holling has a battle against himself to find out what he wants to be when he becomes a man. Mrs. Baker his teacher was pressuring him to become a better student. Also, he watched great leaders get assassinated, the leaders were Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. He has also watched people lose their loved ones and suffer during the war. His father thinks becoming a man means learning to be an architect and supporting his family. Because of his friend Danny who celebrates his Bar Mitzvah, he sees that becoming a man can be something much deeper. At the end he figures out what it means to become a man because of his own experience like Danny’s Bar Mitzvah. When they leave the Bar Mitzvah he sass’s his dad and says that he will tell him what he will be when he is older.

Holling had a miracle down at the river, a vision that was too special to share with anyone. Because of this experience, Holling learned a very important lesson, be who you want to be, not who someone else wants you to be. Holling also solves his problems. He was struggling with his dad about what he will be when he is older. Then he was conflicted about his teacher hating him, but feeling bad for her because her husband was in the war. The greatest challenge was watching people suffer in their community because of the war. That day at the river Holling’s life had changed; he was a man now. He witnessed Danny’s transformation into manhood. He finally had the courage to stand up to his dad. He also stood by his teacher when her husband came home from Vietnam. Even though the war wasn't over there was a little bit more healing that happened in Holling’s life.

I'm a Man

During this story Holling tries to find his identity and how to become a man. He learns how to become a man at Danny’s Bar Mitzvah, but his father thinks you become a man by going to college and opening up a business.

In the story Holling has a track meet. Mrs. Baker was a very good high school runner and teaches Holling how to run better. She tells him to run like Jesse Owens calm, cool and collected. Holling ends up winning the race by passing the 8th graders and that was a turning point in Holling and Mrs. Baker’s relationship.

Another turning point is when Heather, Holling’s sister runs away from home. She is desperate and ends up in Minnesota. She calls holling to ask him for money so she can have two big lunches and a train ticket to go back to Long Island. When she comes home she is very appreciative for Holling and she wants to be nice to him which is a turning point in their relationship.