The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJong and pictures by Maurice Sendak, is one of those books that I ignored for a long time (HarperTrophy, $6.95). It looks a little dated. I thought it was a strange title. I simply wasn’t interested. But every once in a while I go on a Newbery kick and try to read award winners from various decades, just to see. So far I have never been disappointed with a Newbery book. Isn’t that funny? There are so many issues that go along with the reward and I know how political it can be, but through it all, those librarians always manage to choose really good books! I love it. The Wheel on the School is about . . . well? . . . what it is about? Storks, I guess. I could try to describe the plot line, but I don’t think I could convince you that it was worth reading. Instead, I’ll say it’s about one child sparking a chain of events that eventually empowers an entire community to work towards a common goal. It’s about how little things can have a huge impact. It’s about never underestimating the residual effect of curiosity.
In the town of Shora, Netherlands, Lina wants to know why there are no storks in her village. Her teacher, probably one of my favorite teachers in children’s literature, asks the class to all think about what would happen if they started to think about storks. Eelka wants to know how anyone in the class can possibly think about storks if they don’t actually know anything about storks? Storks don’t come to their town, remember? To which the teacher replies: “True, true . . . We can’t think much when we don’t know much. But we can wonder! From now until tomorrow morning when you come to school again, will you do that? Will you wonder why and wonder why? Will you wonder why storks don’t come to Shora to build their nests on the roofs, the way they do in all the villages around? For sometimes when we wonder, we can make things begin to happen”. For a rather quiet book about storks, The Wheel on the School has a lot to say. Give it to a kid who is wondering. See what they create.