The Wheel on The School by Meindert deJong

In order to conclude the month of celebrations of International Children’s Day, we would like to give special review of a classic children book that had been awarded as the Newberry Medal recipient in 1955, The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong.

This heartfelt lovely tale took place in Shora, a little fishing village in Holland. There lived six school children who all went to the same school: Jella, the biggest and the huskiest of all children; Eelka, who was fat, clumsy, and slow, except his mind; Auka, a nice average boy; Pier and Dirk, the inseparable twin brothers; and Lina, the only girl in that small school.

The story began with Lina writing a composition about storks and reading it to the class. She was initially astonished by the fact that the storks went to all the villages all around but Shora. Her opus then raised the question between the children as to why the storks came and built their nest in the village of Nes, next to Shora, but never did so in Shora. This was when the teacher encouraged the class to find out for themselves and they started to wonder and wander to get the answer.

They discovered that the roofs on their village's homes were pitched so steeply that the storks could not find space to nest on the sharp ridges. So they had to place a wagon wheel on each roof ridge to give storks a place to nest. The task of finding a wagon wheel in that tiny village proved to be difficult. But during their search, the children met several interesting personalities and learned valuable things from their encounters.

The Wheel on the School is a happy story, written with freshness, beauty, humor, tenderness, and understanding of children. The simple, yet compelling plot, teaches that if we think and wonder why, things will begin to happen and dreams will come true. There is also this conversation that stated “In order to figure out what stork would want, we should try to think the way a stork would think”, which is a wonderful thing to say to children.

And when the children were getting desperate because of facing a dead lock, the teacher boosted their spirit by saying “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 and then to do, isn’t that the way to make a dream come true?”. A simple logic thought also being taught here as the follow-up to the dream premise “Now we are getting to something that we can do. Now do you see? We wondered why and we reasoned it out. Now we must do”.

As you see, The Wheel on the School is more than the story of school children trying to bring storks to their village on the North Sea. It is a story of people everywhere, of how important people are, irregardless of their age, physical condition, or how they make a living. It encourages us to go beyond what we see on the surface. It shows us that when we help others and care about others, good things will come to us. The children originally wanted to lure storks to their little village because the storks were said to bring good luck. Little did they know that storks would send good fortune ahead in the form of newfound friendships, help for others, and a community that came closer together than it had been before.

The book serves intergenerational tale of love and friendship. It also suggests that you could find help and providence in the places you might least expect them.

This is a timeless story with appeal to all ages.

Reviewed by Begy

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