Why does Holling have to spend Wednesday afternoons with Mrs. Baker in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Basically, Holling has to spend Wednesday afternoons with Mrs. Baker because he is the only Presbyterian boy in class. Presumably, the Presbyterian classes were canceled after Holling's two Presbyterian classmates moved away.

Holling's dreaded Wednesday afternoons begin innocently enough. On the first Wednesday afternoon, he washes the chalkboards multiple times and straightens the dictionaries. He also beats the chalkboard erasers against the brick wall in order to remove the chalk residue from them. The next Wednesday afternoons are spent cleaning different areas of the classroom and the coat room.

On a particular Wednesday afternoon, Mrs. Baker instructs Holling to clean about thirty chalkboard erasers, all from junior high classrooms in the school. Holling's reward is a cream puff from a tray Mrs. Baker is bringing to a Wives of Vietnam Soldiers meeting. Unfortunately, in bringing in the cleaned erasers, Holling unwittingly lets a cloud of chalk dust settle over the cream puffs, which happen to be sitting by the windows.

Later, rumors circulate around town that the ladies of the Wives of Vietnam Soldiers Association nearly choked to death on their cream puffs. Of course, no one is the wiser as to the cause of the strange-tasting cream puffs.

Eventually, Mrs. Baker announces that she and Holling will begin reading and discussing Shakespearean plays. They read everything from The Merchant of Venice to The Tempest. The reading of the plays greatly influences Holling, changing his perceptions about life, relationships, and love.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, Holling is the only Presbyterian in his class. He used to be one of three, but the other two moved away; now Holling is the lone Protestant in class.

Half the class lives on the north side of town and are Jewish. Every Wednesday afternoon, the Jewish students in Holling's seventh-grade class leave school at exactly one forty-five to attend Hebrew School at their temple, Temple Beth-El.  

The other half of the class lives on the south side of town and they are Catholics. Every Wednesday afternoon precisely at one fifty-five, the Catholic students in Holling's class leave to attend Catechism at Saint Adelbert's Church.

Holling lives

"right smack in the middle of town. Not on the north side. Not on the south side, Just somewhere in between. "It's the Perfect House," [his father] said.

When everyone else leaves for their religious studies, Holling is left alone for the afternoon with Mrs. Baker, his seventh-grade teacher. The title of the novel suggests this will be an important aspect of the novel, but of course these times alone with his teacher begin inauspiciously for Holling. Soon, however, these Wednesday afternoons with Mrs. Baker will change Holling's life. 

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The Wednesday Wars

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