The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 27, 2009

Book review: ‘Wednesday Wars’ a flawless story

‘The Wednesday Wars’

By Gary D. Schmidt

(Teen fiction)

Holling Hoodhood is convinced that his seventh-grade teacher, Mrs. Baker, is out to get him. Especially since he is the only student in her class who does not attend religion classes on Wednesday afternoons; meaning he spends afternoons alone with her in the classroom.

It is during these afternoons that Holling discovers Shakespeare. Despite being hesitant at first, he soon warms to the plays and ends up performing in a local rendition of one of them. It is also during these afternoon sessions that he discovers that Mrs. Baker is not simply a teacher. She is wife to an MIA soldier, a lover of Shakespeare, owner of two enormous rats and a former Olympian. While Mrs. Baker’s character may seem a bit over-the-top, her actions complement the story and Schmidt makes them appear believable.

The book starts a little slow, but it quickly gives way to a flawlessly written story. The main focus may be Holling’s seventh-grade year, but Schmidt effortlessly incorporates the Vietnam War, the ’60s, and the trials and tribulations of being a teenager into this hopeful account.

‘The Dead and the Gone’

By Susan Beth Pfeffer

(Teen fiction)

After the moon is hit by an asteroid and knocked out of orbit, 17-year-old Alex Morales becomes the head of his household and assumes responsibility for his two younger sisters.

While holding out hope that their mother will return from her hospital job in Queens and their father will return from Puerto Rico, Alex, Julie and Brianna must struggle to survive. Each day brings new challenges and soon dead bodies are piling up on the streets, food is dwindling and medical attention is non-existent.

Ethical decisions abound in Susan Beth Pfeffer’s companion novel to “Life as We Knew It.” While not as compelling as her previous novel, this one will still cause readers to consider what they would do should similar circumstances arise.

‘The Appeal’

By John Grisham

(Adult fiction)

The stage is set when a Mississippi jury returns a $41 million verdict against a chemical company for illegally dumping toxic waste into a small town’s water supply. The reward has been hard fought by two practically bankrupt lawyers and a plaintiff who has buried her husband and son.

Carl Trudeau, the company’s billionaire CEO, is unsure of how the appeal will play out, so when the opportunity arises for him to buy a seat on the Mississippi Supreme Court, where the appeal will be heard, he does not hesitate to shell out several million dollars for an unknown candidate.

Grisham’s 20th work of fiction introduces a colorful cast of characters, and provides an interesting look at big business and the corruption of the electoral system. It is a bit hard to keep the larger-than-life characters straight and believe that people actually act in this manner; however, this book will fly off shelves simply because of the broad appeal of the author.

Much of the novel is over the top, but readers will keep turning pages until their final gasp at the unexpected conclusion.

Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at Joplin Public Library.