Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Favorites: The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now

If you've read Gary D. Schmidt, you know that the man can write and write well. He paints vivid pictures in his writing. His characters are strong and well defined. His stories matter and make the reader a more caring person for having read what Schmidt writes.

A few years ago, I read The Wednesday Wars and it is still one of my all time favorite books. This book will make you laugh and cry. It took me longer than normal to read this book because I would stop, go back, and re-read pages in order to re-experience the scene again.

One example: This story is set during the Vietnam War. Holling and his teacher are discussing Shakespeare when the school's cook enters the room. Her husband is serving in Vietnam.

"And that was when Mrs. Bigio came into the classroom. Actually, she didn't quite come in. She opened the door and stood leaning against the doorway, one hand up to her mouth, the other trembling on the doorknob.

Mrs. Baker stood. 'Oh, Edna, did they find him?'

Mrs. Bigio nodded.

'And is he . . .'

Mrs. Bigio opened her mouth, but the only sounds that come out were the sounds of sadness. I can't tell you what they sounded like. But you know them when you hear them.

Mrs. Baker sprinted out from behind her desk and gathered Mrs. Bigio in her arms. She helped Mrs. Bigio to her own chair, where she slumped down like someone who had nothing left in her.

'Mr. Hoodhood, you may go home now,' Mrs. Baker said.

I did.

But I will never forget those sounds" (71).

Schmidt will make you cry, but he will also make you laugh, out loud. I was a kid during this time period, and I remember watching the war coverage on the news, so this story reminds me of being a child during this very tumultuous time period. Schmidt touches on gender role stereotypes, prejudices, childhood fears and successes, and class rats (literally - real rats). This won a well deserved Newberry Honor award.

Schmidt wrote a companion novel about one of the characters from The Wednesday Wars, but each book stands on its own. Okay for Now tells Doug Swieteck's story from a new town because his family has moved. The year is 1968 and his oldest brother is returning from fighting in Vietnam. His father is abusive and his other brother is in trouble with the law. 

While chaos and trouble are in charge at home, Doug finds solace through art, the library, and friendship. My students who read these books enjoyed them. Schmidt knows his craft well. 

Quick update on the NICU book project

Cayli, (my daughter-in-law) the owner of Nightchayde: a fashion blog, brought over sixteen books for the NICU last night. That means three more babies will receive a package of books and hopefully gain a lifelong appreciation of literature.

Thank you, Cayli and Brandon. This project means so much to me. I wish I could give books to every child in the world. One of my ESL students said last year, "In America there are so many books. There aren't many books in my old village. It was hard." He loved reading and asked questions about anything that confused him. He wanted to clarify everything. He was determined to read, read well, and win at life. I wish every child could grasp that desire to learn. Knowledge is power.

If you'd like to help give books to the world, click here for information on how to help our project.

Have you read to your inner child today?

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