Wheel on the Schoolby Meindert DeJong, Maurice Sendak (Illustrator)
Why did the storks no longer come to the little Dutch fishing village of Shora to nest? It was Lina, one of the six schoolchildren, who first asked the question, and she set the others to wondering. And sometimes when you begin to wonder, you begin to make things happen. So the children set out to bring the storks back. They had to overcome many obstacles, including the fierce and threatening sea. But they wouldn't give up -- and soon their determination and their vision got the whole village working, until at last the dream began to come true.
Read an Excerpt
Do You Know About Storks?
To start with there was Shora. Shora was a fishing village in Holland. It lay on the shore of the North Sea in Friesland, tight against the dike. Maybe that was why it was called Shora. It had some houses and a church and tower. In five of those houses lived the six school children of Shora, so that is important. There were a few more houses, but in those houses lived no children -- just old people. They were, well, just old people, so they weren't too important. There were more children, too, but young children, toddlers, not school children -- so that is not so important either.
The six children of Shora all went to the same little school. There was Jella; he was the biggest of the six. He was big and husky for his age. There was Eelka. He was slow and clumsy, except his mind; his mind was swift. There was Auka, and right here at the beginning there is nothing much to say about Auka -- he was just a nice, everyday boy. You could have fun with him. There were Pier and Dirk; they were brothers. Pier and Dirk looked about as much alike as second cousins. But Pier liked what Dirk liked, and Dirk did what Pier did. They liked to be together. They were twins.
Then there was Lina. She was the only girl in the little Shora school. One girl with five boys. Of course, there was also a teacher, a man teacher.
Maybe to begin with, we really should have started with Lina. Not because she was the only schoolgirl in Shora, but because she wrote a story about storks. There were no storks in Shora. Lina had written this story about storks of her own accord-the teacher hadnt asked her to writeit. In fact, until Lina read it out loud to the five boys and the teacher, nobody in school had even thought about storks.
But there one day, right in the middle of the arithmetic lesson, Lina raised her hand and asked, "Teacher, may I read a little story about storks? I wrote it all myself, and it's about storks."
Lina called it a story, but it was really an essay, a composition. The teacher was so pleased that Lina had written a little piece of her own accord, he stopped the arithmetic lesson right there and let Lina read her story. She began with the tide and read on:
Do You Know About Storks?
Do you know about storks? Storks on your roof bring all kinds of good luck. I know this about storks; they are big and white and have long yellow bills andtall yellow legs. They build great big messy nests, sometimes right on your roof. But when they build a nest on the roof of a house, they bring good luck to that house and to the whole village that that house stands in. Storks do not sing. They make a noise like you do when you clap your hands when you feel happy and good. I think storks clap their bills to make the happy sounds when they feel happy and good. They clap their bills almost all the time except when they are in the marshes and ditches hunting for frogs and little fishes and things. Then they are quiet. But on your roof they are noisy. But it is a happy noise, and I like happy noises.
That is all I know about storks; but my aunt in the village of Nes knows a lot about storks, because every year two big storks come to build their nest right on her roof. But I do not know much about storks, because storks never come to Shora. They go to all the villages all around, but they never come to Shora. That is the most that I know about storks, but if they came to Shora, I would know more about storks.
After Lina had finished reading her story, the room was quiet. The teacher stood there looking proud and pleased. Then he said, That was a fine story, Lina. A very fine composition, and you know quite a lot about storks!" His eyes were pleased and bright. He turned to big Jella. "Jella," he said, "what do you know about storks?"
"About storks, Teacher?" Jella said slowly. "About storks -- nothing." He looked surly and stubborn, because he felt stupid. He thought he ought to explain. "You see," he told the teacher, "I can't bring them down with my slingshot. I've tried and tried, but I just can't seem to do it."
The teacher looked startled. "But why would you want to shoot them down?"
"Oh, I don't know," Jella said. He wriggled a little in his seat. He looked unhappy. "Because they move, I guess."
"Oh, the teacher said. "Pier," he said then, "Dirk, what do you twins know about storks?"
"About storks?" Pier asked. "Nothing."
"Dirk," the teacher said.
"Just the same as Pier," Dirk said. "Nothing."
"Pier," the teacher said, "if I had asked Dirk first, what would have been your answer?"
"The same as Dirk's," Pier answered promptly. "Teacher, that's the trouble with being twins -- if you don't know something, you don't know it double."
The teacher and the room liked that. It made everybody laugh. "Well, Auka," the teacher said, "how about you?"
Auka was still chuckling and feeling good about what Pier had said, but now he looked serious. "All I know is that if storks make happy noises with their bills like Lina said in her story, then I would like storks, too."The Wheel on the School. Copyright � by Meindert DeJong. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Meindert DeJong is the award-winning author of many classic books for children, including the Newbery Medal-winning The Wheel On The Schooland the Newbery Honor-winning Along Came A Dog, Shadrach,and The House Of Sixty Fathers, all available in Harper Trophy editions and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Among Mr. Sendak's other popular books is his Caldecott Medal-winning Where The Wild Things Are.
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This book won the 1955 John Newbery Medal. It is the kind of book for which the medal was designed and which deserves the award. I really enjoyed this story which is set in the little Dutch fishing village of Shorra. A schoolgirl named Lina does a report on storks and asks why storks no longer come to Shorra as they do to all the neighboring villages. The teacher tells the students to wonder why, saying when you begin to wonder, you begin to make things happen. They finally decide that it is because there are no wheels on the roofs of the houses in Shorra for the storks to use to nest, so they set about trying to find a wheel to put on the roof of the school. In the process, the six schoolchildren, who have their petty dislikes and spats, learn to work together in finding a wheel and, more importantly in contrast to so much drivel that passes for children's literature today where the children go off all by themselves and just about every adult with whom they interact is evil or completely stupid, the Shorras children learn to enlist the help of and to work with adults to accomplish their goal. There are a few instances where men are said to smoke pipes. The language contains nothing worse than a few times when the children say, "Golly," and a couple of times when one of the adults says, "Blasted." This is a great book!
When storks no longer come to Shora, kids think hard and then they begin to come back. A kid's thinking and wishes are often answered when they believe enough in them.
This is the kind of book that draws you in, word by word. You are happy to find yourself among these characters, and you don't want to leave them. I have read it aloud to a class of 4th graders. They were not book-lovers when they came to me. Yet when we arrived at the end of the chapter each day, they begged for 'one more chapter.' This book will make you smile.
I am now twelve, but I read this book when I was ten. Parts of the book were clever, cute, and witty, but others were very boring. If you like reading over and over about how to tie a knot or how to row a boat, this book is for you. I, personally, do not like reading about how exactly something is done. Now, The Wheel on the School is not 'descriptive', it is past that. There aren't any descrpitve moments, it gets to the point where it's just monotonous. I know that many people would like to read about how to do something, but I do not enjoy that. There wasn't much excitement. Now, some of the ideas in the book were cute, but I thought most of the book was.........boring. Just my 12-year-old opinion, though.........SFI
I especially liked this book because it had everything from action to suspense and hope. There were parts from different sections which linked together at some point like when the children go searching for a wagon wheel. I really didn't like the way Janus kept appearing so often. It was as if he was the protagonist. I would definitly recommend this book to other people (including adults) even though it looks very childish. The most exciting part was when Eelka was trying to get the wagon wheel and broke it while almost losing his life. In the beginning, it seems as if the book would be boring because the children get excited just because they were let out early. There is no excitement which starts to build when the children start looking for a wagon wheel.
The Wheel on the School has become one of my family's favorite children's books. A great family read-aloud. My children, ages 8 and 10, loved it. The beginning of the book is a bit slow but keep reading. It is an exceptional story, which is why it won the Newbery Award. I still don't understand why this book is not more well-known.
A wonderful and artfully told story of a village full of people who hardly know each other until one little girl is encouraged to dream of a way to bring storkes to their town. Enjoyable, funny and thoughtful The Wheel on the School can be read and re-read by people of all ages. I loved this book.
I have successfully taught The Wheel on the School to three different groups of 7th graders. The THEME of the book is that EVERYBODY IS IMPORTANT. Kids tend to think that they're the only ones who really matter, and they can be cruel to people who are different. In this book, a small group of children are hoping to attract storks to their little fishing village, yet every part of the community eventually gets involved. DeJong has artfully managed to 'get inside the heads' of each one of his young characters. My students have found that they can relate to these kids. Guess what? No bad language; no violence; no sex; no disrespect for adults. Like I said, it's a great book to teach.