What does Holling learn and what is the theme of "April" in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Each chapter in Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars is a month in Holling Hoodhood's seventh-grade school year, and April is a busy month for this young man.

First of all, Holling is the only seventh-grader who makes the varsity squad of the cross country team. Some are a little disgruntled because they know Holling only ran as fast as he did because he was being, well, motivated by a couple of rats; Holling admits that it true but it does not seem to bother him:

“I wonder why Holling had the fastest time," said Danny after the announcements--a whole lot louder than he had to. "Could it be because he was running away from two rats who were trying to eat him?"
"That might have a little to do with it," I said. 

Later in the month, Holling wins a cross country meet because his friend, Danny Hupfer, was tormented by his own teammates during the junior varsity race and gives Holling the incentive and motivation to beat the bullies and win. Holling learns that he is strong enough not only to win but to withstand whatever the older boys might choose to do to him.

Second of all, the country is undergoing some dramatic changes. First of all, Operation Pegasus begins, sending thousands of troops to save American military prisoners during the Vietnam War. Lyndon Johnson decides not to run for President. Why he makes that decision is something Heather Hoodhood and her father disagree about; however, when Martin Luther King is assassinated, the entire Hoodhood family feels this loss deeply, despite their political differences. This is time of increased political awareness for Holling, and he discovers he has a bit more in common with his sister than with his father.

Holling and his two buddies, along with their fathers, have tickets to go to Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Sadly, Mr. Hoodhood once again chooses work over his family; however, Mrs. Baker takes him to the game. While she is there, she gets an opportunity to put in a good word for Meryl Lee's architect father--something she would never have done for Mr. Hoodhood because he has consistently proven himself to be a careless, selfish, and disinterested father. Holling surely realizes that his teacher does not hate him and that there is more to life than work. He will use this experience later to help give him the courage to "speak up" for himself to his father. In this chapter, Heather struggles with doing just that: she wants to go to Columbia University but her father makes her work in his office and tells her she will not be going to such a liberal and outspoken school. She does not speak up for herself either--yet.

Both Holling and his sister are in relationships, but Holling is upset because Meryl Lee may have to move after the junior high building plan cheating fiasco involving her father. Heather's boyfriend, Chit, is a kind of flower child like her; he drives a yellow Volkswagon beetle with flower decals.

April is a time of blossoming friendships and growing up for Holling Hoodhood in this coming-of-age novel. 

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