List of Characters
Holling Hoodhood—the lead character, a seventh grader at Camillo Junior High.
Heather Hoodhood—Holling’s older sister, a would-be social revolutionary.
Mr. Hoodhood—Holling’s father, a very ambitious architect.
Mrs. Hoodhood—Holling’s mother, a passive figure.
Doug Sweiteck—another seventh grader, one who tries to cause trouble.
Doug Sweiteck’s brother—an older boy whom Holling trips during a soccer game.
Mrs. Sidman—a teacher/administrator with bright red/orange hair.
Ben Cummings—a friend of Holling’s who moved away.
Ian MacAlister—another friend of Holling’s who moved away.
Pastor McClellan—the Presbyterian preacher.
Meryl Lee Kowalski—a seventh grader who has long loved Holling.
Mai Thi—a Vietnamese girl sponsored by the Catholic Relief Agency.
Danny Hupner—another seventh grader, and one of Holling’s friends.
Mr. Guareschi—the dictatorial principal.
Mr. Petrelli—the ditto-crazy geography teacher.
Mrs. Edna Bigio—the school cook who bakes cream puffs.
Mr. Venderli—the school’s custodian.
Miss Violet—the school’s choir director.
Coach Quatrini—the gym and cross-country coach.
Mrs. Betty Baker—Holling’s strict English teacher and foe.
Mr. Benjamin Goldman—the Shakespeare-loving owner of Goldman’s Best Bakery.
Mr. Mercutio Baker—owner of the Baker Sporting Emporium.
Mr. Kowalski—Meryl Lee’s father, and a competing architect with Mr. Hoodhood.
Mr. Bradbrook—chairman of the school board.
Mickey Mantle—the great Yankee outfielder who refuses to sign an autograph for Holling.
Joe Pepitone—a popular Yankee first baseman and outfielder.
Horace Clarke—a Yankee second baseman.
Sycorax and Caliban—two escaped rats, named after characters from The Tempest.
(The entire section is 264 words.)
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Holling Hoodhood is the novel’s main character, narrator, protagonist, and, in his curious and amusing way, hero. At the novel’s start, there is not that much to him. He seems nice enough, but he is rather passive, and has not done anything to distinguish himself. Then, through a twist of fate, he is put into a series of situations that transform him, bringing forth his inner qualities. Largely as a result of his interactions with Mrs. Baker, Holling becomes an actor, an athlete, and a more successful student. He emerges from his passivity—his own sister refers to his lack of guts early in the novel—to be quietly assertive. This can be seen in his choice to counsel Mrs. Baker on teaching, in his choice to apologize to Meryl Lee, and in his choice to spend his own money to rescue his sister. His parents essentially abandon her, leaving her stranded in Minneapolis with only $4. Not only does Holling, a seventh grader, cash in a savings bond, but he wires her the money, then pressures his mother into getting them transportation and food from the bus stop.
Like the Shakespearean heroes he reads about, a good portion of his heroism is fate—but also like them, a good portion of his character comes from how he responds to fate. Any student could have accidentally covered the cream puffs with chalk dust while cleaning the erasers, but not every student would have recovered so well, so methodically, and so honorably.
Mrs. Betty Baker is one of those almost impossibly lofty representations of what a teacher should be—so elevated, in fact, that at times she seems too good to be true. (How likely is it that a seventh grader who is just getting started in cross-country would have an English teacher who ran track in the Olympics?) She recognizes Holling’s qualities before he does, pushes him to fulfill his potential, and steps up to mentor him and care for him when his own parents fail to do so. Her extracurricular activities—taking him to Yankee Stadium and on an architectural tour—make her seem like a guardian angel. Grounding her, however, in realism are her personal qualities and her pain. That is to say, early in the novel she seems genuinely not to want this boy in her classroom, and her irritation comes through. Then, throughout the novel, she is under strain as her husband is first fighting in Vietnam and then missing in action.
Though Holling refers to his school principal...
(The entire section is 713 words.)