Newberry Honor books are usually pretty good, but this one definetly wins top 10 on any of my reading lists. The writing was superb, the voice child-like but engaging, the character development definite, and the plot was riveting.
13 year old Holling Hoodhood knows seventh grade will be a nightmare when Mrs. Baker, his English teacher, hates him with a passion for no reason (most of us know that feeling, right?). But the world outside him is much worse than anything the two pet rats could cook up. The year is 1967 and the Vietnam War is raging. Every night on the news is a few more pictures of men crouching in bunkers, trying to survive.
But Holling has plenty of torture in store. Because he doesn’t go to the Jewish temple or the Catholic Church on Wednesday afternoon, he is stuck with Mrs. Baker who makes him read Shakespeare. But Holling soon notices an uncanny parallel between what is going on in his life and the plays he is reading. Eventually he doesn’t mind the Shakespeare. Even if it does end up with him in yellow tights on stage.
The character development of all the characters, even the minor ones in this book is huge and very rewarding. They all seem so alive and complex, which I think is one of the signs of a great author. The writing and the voice, which may be my favorite part, is very much like a 7th grade boy with a humorous outlook on life that reminds me of The Worst Best School Year Ever, by Barbara Robinson.
This book definitely made me think more about life but not in a boring way. I was always excited about what the next story would be and loved looking at life through Holling’s eyes. Everyone should read this book!
-Becka O., 9th grade