Jill's Reviews > The Wheel on the School

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
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Sep 29, 10

bookshelves: newbery-medal
Recommended for: 6-8th graders with an interest in engineering
Read from September 23 to 29, 2010

1955 Newbery winner.

I enjoyed this book for its message of teaching kids to think outside the box; in this case the school. The teacher encourages the kids to problem solve and in the process they become more interested in learning, more active in their community and develop better relationships with the local residents. Their small-town adventures remind me a lot of Anne of Green Gables.

All in all it's a pretty good story: Easy, uncomplicated sentence structure, a good one for middle-schoolers EXCEPT the length; they'd be bored after the first 50 pages, and really, the book could have been condensed to 150 pages. I lost interest halfway through and was crying Uncle by the last few chapters. Someone who has more of an interest in engineering would enjoy it more than I did I'm sure, especially the drawn out explanations of how the wheel components are moved from one place to another. Very tedious.

Another thing: There are many instances of the children putting themselves in life-threatening situations. I found that strange given the amount of thought and planning that's encouraged by their teacher. But time and time again the author has the kids doing something dangerous and none of them learns to think things through first before acting!

"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."

"It was a lonely habit. She often sat staring into her shoe. It somehow made her feel better and seemed to help her to think better, but she didn't know why. She often wished she could wear her wooden shoes in the schoolroom instead of just socks. The wooden shoes had to be left out in the portal. Lina was sure it would help no end if she could pull off one of her shoes and stare and dream into it awhile--especially before doing an arithmetic problem. Lina sighed. You couldn't dream with arithmetic. With arithmetic you could only think. It made arithmetic sort of scary. Hard and scary and not very exciting."

"You get us each a wineball out of the tin. Then I'll sit on my stoop and you sit on yours, and we'll think about storks. But we'll think better each on his own stoop, because often thinking gets lost in talking. And maybe your teacher is right--that if we begin to think and wonder, somebody will begin to make things happen. But you go find the candy tin; I can think much better sucking on a wineball. And you take one, too. You watch if it doesn't work much better than looking inside an old wooden shoe."

"But 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?"

""Well," the teacher said slowly, feeling his way, "at least it isn't a downright thief who leaves a note and signs his name after he's taken something. And thieves hardly ever promise to return what they steal. So if we do teach them to steal at this school, you've got to admit we teach them to do it differently.""
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