Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Company: NY, 2007.
Newbery Honor 2008
The story grabs the reader from the first page and doesn't let go. Schmidt again (as in Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy) packs so much of life into his book. The book spotlights a difficult year in our history and exhibits how understanding Shakespeare (and other literature) can help one understand life.
Trapped in a one-on-one class with Mrs. Baker on Wednesday afternoons (all the other students are excused for religious classes), Holling feels like it's target practice and he's the target. There's no help from his parents. He's expected to deal with whatever Mrs. Baker throws his way while not disgracing the family lest it reflect badly on the family business.
The book reads like memoirs-of a seventh grader from Long Island, New York during the
trying school year of 1967-1968. The country (his older sister and adults at school) is
focused on the Vietnam War while continuing with the flow of ordinary life. Holling's
days alone with his teacher at first consist of any chores she can find for him. As the
chores wind down, she sets him to reading Shakespeare-a task which leads to much
excitement in his life. Some of which he would rather have done without. Shakespeare is
just one of the many challenges to arise as a result of the Wednesday class. As he
handles one situation after another, he gains Mrs. Baker's affection, friendship, and
help through his continuing "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."
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