Double Review: Gary D. Schmidt books

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
This is my favorite kind of book: a few strong themes running throughout, a nice character arc, and ties up neatly in the end. Seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood is neither Catholic nor Jewish in his Long Island suburb in 1968, meaning that on Wednesday afternoons he is the only kid in his class who does not leave early for CCD or Hebrew School. Instead, he stays the extra couple of hours with his teacher, whom he is sure hates him for making her stay as well. However, as the year progresses, it turns out she doesn’t hate him after all as they study Shakespeare together. Meanwhile, Holling’s sister (whose name, Heather, is annoyingly revealed in such a way that’s supposed to be super meaningful but fell flat for me) declares herself a flower child and runs away with her boyfriend, but not long after calls for bus fare home. While she and Holling have a typical sibling relationship while under the same roof, he sends her the money and goes to meet her bus, which strengthens their relationship. There are a few funny, action-packed scenes involving the class rats who escape their cage, and the Vietnam War affects everyone, including teachers and a Vietnamese refugee student. Holling and his best friend also each start dating, which is all very rated-G. My favorite part of this book was that Holling’s sister keep slamming her door and blasting the Monkees (among other 60’s bands – but I have an affinity for the Monkees).
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
Jackson Hurd’s family takes in a foster boy, Joseph Brook, a couple of years older than Jack. At fourteen, Joseph’s problems seem to have started when he fell in love with a wealthy girl and got her pregnant. Now living a couple of hours away from his abusive father, Joseph’s main goal is to find his baby daughter. All anyone at school knows of Joseph is that he has a daughter and did time for trying to kill a teacher, but Jack and his parents slowly earn Joseph’s trust and hear the whole story. It was a little unbelieveable how Jack and Joseph take to each other, but it was also so sweet that I suspended my disbelief. Joseph also takes to living on a farm and helping with the twice-daily milkings with very few problems. The ending is a tear-jerker and comes at you fast since it’s a slender 180 pages and is a quick read.

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