The building of a stone wall is the focal point of this succinctly told tale. ``Old Matthew Wheelock'' painstakingly chooses and arranges the stones ``like a giant puzzle,'' creating a wall strong enough to last ``years in and out'' so that it may be enjoyed by his grandchildren and the animals who nest within its cracks. Weller's beguilingly spare prose--only occasionally jarred by statements like ``this wall's my monument!''--is further enhanced by images of grandchildren who ``duel like knights and pirates.'' Lewin's unframed, full-spread paintings engender nostalgia--in muted grays, greens and browns, they portray an elderly Matthew in his workclothes laboring on the wall as vast expanses of land spread out beyond him. This thoughtful book, with its subtle message about care and endurance, will encourage readers to consider the legacies in their own lives. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-- Matthew Wheelock clears his fields for planting, and with the many rocks he builds a stone wall. It rings his pastures like a ``stone necklace''; built to last, it provides a home for wildlife and a source of play and pride for future generations. There's a light message that the world is like this wall, with its interdependence of things large and small. Lewin's artwork adds substance to the poetic text; the rocks are rich with light and shadow, and the pages are spacious and long, echoing the wall. Building a stone wall can, oddly enough, be a contemplative experience, and the book honors that, but this isn't a story with clear child appeal. It is a worthy homage to the farmers whose work, happily, is still in evidence.--Leda Schubert, Vermont Department of Education
More than 100 years ago, Matthew Wheelock carefully placed the stones in his wall, little rocks filling in chinks between larger ones, a single stone lying over the junction of two below, every stone touching its neighbors. Just as carefully, Weller chooses and places her words in this poetically crafted description of the construction and endurance of Matthew's wall. Lewin's dramatic watercolor illustrations powerfully span double-page spreads, evoking the back-aching labor with which Matthew cleared the weighty stones from his New England fields, wrestled in his dreams with schemes for fitting and holding them together in a wall, then methodically and diligently laid the wall stone by stone around his farm. Not only did Matthew's wall contain his fertile fields, but through the generations it has also harbored nests of field mice, sheltered chipmunks and snakes, and offered a stage for his descendants' playful imaginings. Yes, Matthew's wall has served many purposes, perhaps not the least of which has been its physical embodiment of enduring values--the worth of hard work and determination and the strength that comes through mutual support. As Weller so aptly puts it in the book's closing lines: "And so his wall has stood more than a hundred years, stone hugging stone. He knew the small ones need the big, the big the small. So like the world is Matthew Wheelock's wall."