The Wednesday Wars & Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
If you haven't been introduced to the words of Gary D. Schmidt, get thyself acquainted forthwith.
Mr Schmidt is a wordsmith and a story-teller. A genius of a writer. He tackles the issues and insecurities that kids are troubled by with humour and a touch of innocence that makes even difficult matter, somehow hopeful and transformative. His characters are so real and lovable, I wanted to spend more time with them and found myself devouring these books to do just that.
The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now are set in the same world as each other and have a couple of characters that feature in both books, although the stories are standalone. If you choose to read both stories, read The Wednesday Wars first, as it comes first chronologically.
In The Wednesday Wars, Holling Hoodhood gets stuck behind in class every Wednesday, while the rest of his middle grade classmates get to go to Hebrew school or catechism for the afternoon. Holling thinks his teacher, Mrs Baker, has it in for him since he's spoiled her one afternoon off by being a Presbyerian. This is confirmed in his mind when she assigns Shakespeare to him every Wednesday afternoon for the entire year. What ensues are the Wednesday wars between Holling and Mrs Baker but, as the story unfolds, we discover that Mrs Baker is more of an ally than Holling realised and it's another adult in his life letting him down.
Okay for Now is the story of one of Holling Hoodhood's classmates, Doug Swieteck, after he moves away to a new town with his good-for-nothing father, loving-but-beaten-down mother and older brother, a newly returned victim of the Vietnam War. It's a fun yet powerful story of hope and redemption, with characters I fell in love with and rooted so hard for.
While these books are technically children's fiction, I think readers of all ages would enjoy them as they are at times laugh-out-loud hilarious, richly-layered and ultimately hopeful and inspiring.