Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Wheel on the School (1955)

The quiet in the little school in Shora was broken when Lina asked if she could read her essay.  It was about storks.  She wondered why there were no storks on the roofs of Shora, for she knows they bring good luck and make you happy.  There are storks on the roofs of the houses in surrounding villages, but not in Shora, a small, Dutch fishing village just behind the dike at the edge of the sea..

This essay and the question it poses starts the class on an adventure to get storks back in Shora.  The teacher sees an opportunity for the class to do some thinking and runs with the idea, getting them all excited about the project.  They realized that they need a wagon wheel to place on the roof so that the storks will have a place to build their nest.  The children begin combing the village and surrounding farms to find a wheel to place on the roof of the school. 

Their adventures soon lead them to interact with the people in the village.  One of my favorites was Janus.  The children all think he is the meanest man in town.  His legs, so the children tell each other, were bitten off by a shark.  When twins Pier and Dirk try to sneak into his yard to look for a wheel, they make a surprising discovery.

That is what happens in this book.  The characters make discoveries about the people around them and about themselves.  They find out good and surprising things which strengthen and lift each one and brings unity to the village.  There is enough going on that children would enjoy the book, and it also has a message that will inspire them.  I give it two thumbs up.

Some favorite quotes.  There were more, but would take up too much space setting the scene and are better read in full context.:

The teacher says, "But there's where things have to start--with a dream.  Of course, if you just go on dreaming, then it stays a dream and becomes stale and dead.  But first to dream the then to do--isn't that the way to make a dream come true?" (p. 32)

A farmer to one of the children. "I'll take a chance on you.  Fat, slow kids are usually pretty honest.  They have to be; they can't run away." (p. 81)

DeJong, Meindert.  The Wheel on the School.  HarperCollins, 1954.

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