How does Mrs. Baker take on the role of Holling's mother in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holling Hoodhood is a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. He has one sister, Heather, and his parents. His father is Mr. Hoodhood, an architect who owns his own firm and spends all his time and energy either on work or on himself. His mother, Mrs. Hoodhood, is rather a nonentity in this novel; she is a rather shadowy presence in the background and defers to her husband in almost everything (no doubt typical of a wife's role in the 1950s and into the 1960s).

Mrs. Baker is Holling's seventh-grade teacher, and in many ways she fills the role as mother--and even father--to Holling throughout the course of the year. She, not his parents, works with him on his running and attends the cross country meet he wins. She and a few of his friends attend Holling's plays while his parents sit at home and watch a Christmas special on television. She and Mr. Guareschi (the school principal) take Holling to the hospital after he hurts himself while saving his sister's life from a careening bus; his parents just give their permission over the phone for Holling to be treated. She is the one who, when his father refuses to leave work and attend Opening Day at Yankee Stadium, takes him to the game and arranges his amazing on-field experience. She, not his architect father, is the one who takes a walk with Holling to admire the architecture in their neighborhood. 

Clearly Mrs. Baker, over the course of a year, rather becomes Holling's mother, and Holling appreciates her efforts. This is particularly ironic since, in the first two lines of the novel, Holling says this:

Of all the kids in seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun. Me.

Obviously Holling is an unreliable narrator.

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The Wednesday Wars

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