Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn't like Holling—he's sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.
I loved this book. Completely and fully loved it. My children and I listened to it on our way to and from school. At one point it would have us laughing out loud, and the next minute it almost (ok did) make us cry. The main character Holling Hoodhood is such a likable character. He's so real and genuine - a kid you'd like to have next door. What I really love about Holling is the growth we saw in him throughout the course of the story. During the story he has many ups and downs (and they are crazy ups and downs!), but each teaches him a little more about who he is and how he fits into the world around him. And in the end, he really became the person he was meant to be.
Putting on my teacher's hat for a second here: It is the first book in a loooooooong time where I feel 125% that my students, ALL my students, need to read it. Not only will they relate to Holling, even though it takes place in the late 1960's, but they'll learn a ton in the process. It touches on such topics as the Viatnam War, Bobby Kennedy, The Beatles, Martin Luther King Jr. and some of the players for the Yankees. It also looks at bullying, the Jewish faith, learning that our parents aren't always who we think they are and our relationships with our siblings. And the best part - it covers Shakespeare! Yes I said Shakespeare. But here's the cool part - it's a 7th grader's take on Shakespeare not a teacher's (well that's in there too). To give you a taste, Holling thinks Romeo was an idiot and that Shakespeare's idea of a comedy is all wrong. Now his teacher helps him see Shakespeare more indepth, but what a great way to introduce him plays to the reader. I hope that I can teach this book in the future.
Bottom line: Read it. Just read it.
Best for ages: 12+ (although my kids are 8 and 10 and loved listening to it!)
This is an alternate cover. I like the original, but my students liked this one better.