Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJong

Storks in your village are lucky. Luckier still is to have one nest on your roof. I know this from reading Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, and the children in this book know it because they are Dutch. There are no storks in their little village, though, and they want that to change.

Something I did not know from reading Hans Brinker is that a lot of people who want a storks on their roof will put a wagon wheel up for the storks to build a nest on. This book is the story of how the six schoolchildren in the Dutch village of Shora decide to find a wheel to put on their school, so that storks will begin nesting there again. As they look for a wagon wheel in their village and surrounding area, amazing things begin to happen - they find that the old man with no legs is not the ogre they had thought (and he finds out what the children have been saying about him!); that the old lady who sits on her step has wonderful stories to tell; that it feels good to help someone in a difficult spot; and mostly, that they are all capable of things they didn't realize.

This is a good story well told. The illustrations by Maurice Sendak were a pleasant surprise, and they do well to give you a hint of setting without taking over for your imagination. It's written with a slower pace than many books, but it all fits - you feel like you're really there, in the sleepy fishing village of Shora, as things begin to happen. Things that are so impossibly impossible, that they just have to happen!

My favorite so far of the books I've read for this project - I give it a 9, for everybody!

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