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THE WEDNESDAY WARS

It’s 1967, and on Wednesdays, every Jewish kid in Holling Hoodhood’s class goes to Hebrew School, and every Catholic kid goes to Catechism. Holling is Presbyterian, which means that he and Mrs. Baker are alone together every Wednesday—and she hates it just as much as he does. What unfolds is a year of Wednesday Shakespeare study, which, says Mrs. Baker, “is never boring to the true soul.” Holling is dubious, but trapped. Schmidt plaits world events into the drama being played out at Camillo Junior High School, as well as plenty of comedy, as Holling and Mrs. Baker work their way from open hostility to a sweetly realized friendship. Holling navigates the multitudinous snares set for seventh-graders—parental expectations, sisters, bullies, girls—with wry wit and the knowledge that the world will always be a step or two ahead of him. Schmidt has a way of getting to the emotional heart of every scene without overstatement, allowing the reader and Holling to understand the great truths swirling around them on their own terms. It’s another virtuoso turn by the author of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2005). (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: June 18, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-618-72483-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

After Hitler appoints Bruno’s father commandant of Auschwitz, Bruno (nine) is unhappy with his new surroundings compared to the luxury of his home in Berlin. The literal-minded Bruno, with amazingly little political and social awareness, never gains comprehension of the prisoners (all in “striped pajamas”) or the malignant nature of the death camp. He overcomes loneliness and isolation only when he discovers another boy, Shmuel, on the other side of the camp’s fence. For months, the two meet, becoming secret best friends even though they can never play together. Although Bruno’s family corrects him, he childishly calls the camp “Out-With” and the Fuhrer “Fury.” As a literary device, it could be said to be credibly rooted in Bruno’s consistent, guileless characterization, though it’s difficult to believe in reality. The tragic story’s point of view is unique: the corrosive effect of brutality on Nazi family life as seen through the eyes of a naïf. Some will believe that the fable form, in which the illogical may serve the objective of moral instruction, succeeds in Boyle’s narrative; others will believe it was the wrong choice. Certain to provoke controversy and difficult to see as a book for children, who could easily miss the painful point. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2006

ISBN: 0-385-75106-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: David Fickling/Random

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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The timeline overlaps the events of the companion novel, but fans of the first won’t feel déjà vu. There’s more of a sense...

TOTALLY JOE

One quarter of the “Gang of Five” from The Misfits (2001) tells his own story of coming out and overcoming bullies and prejudice through alphabetical entries in his “alphabiography.”

Joe Bunch aka JoDan aka Scorpio (among other names) works his way from October to March to fulfill his teacher Mr. Daly’s assignment to write about his life from A to Z, including “life lessons” at the end of each entry. Though things do go Joe’s way, the story is nothing but realistic. Howe has created a character that lives and breathes with all of the inconsistencies, fears and longings of your normal average seventh-grade homosexual. Joe still thinks “exchanging saliva” is excruciatingly gross, but he knows he wants to date boys. He thinks Colin is cute and fun to be with, but Joe just can’t “tone down” on command. His family is not surprised when he finally lets them in on his secret with the gentle assistance of his artistic Aunt Pam and his (sometimes overly) helpful best friend Addie.

The timeline overlaps the events of the companion novel, but fans of the first won’t feel déjà vu. There’s more of a sense of spending extra time with a favorite friend. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-689-83957-X

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Ginee Seo/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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