Sally's Reviews > The Wheel on the School

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
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Feb 17, 12

bookshelves: holland, small-town, childrens-younger, quaintly-old-fashioned
Read on February 17, 2012, read count: 1

Hurry Home, Candy has always been one of my favourite books, and I wish I'd also read this one when I was younger because I have a feeling I would have adored it just as much. Not to say that I wasn't absolutely charmed by it now! :) The story is wonderful and the setting is just gorgeous. Shora is a small fishing village in Northern Holland. There are only six children of school age in the village, and only one of those six is a girl. They're all in the one schoolroom together when Lina, quite randomly, asks if she can read out an essay that she wrote on storks.

There are no storks in Shora, and after her essay the teacher asks the children to go off and think about this, and the reasons why there aren't any storks as in Lina's essay. Lina finds out the most information, from the wonderful old Grandmother Sibble III - there are no trees, and the roofs are too sharp besides. In Nes, the next village over, many houses have wheels on their roofs so that the storks may nest there. Some houses in Shora uses to have wheels, there used to be trees, but vicious ocean storms destroyed all that many years ago.

Soon, it ends up being a class project - to locate a wheel to put on the roof of the school so that storks may again come to Shora. The chapters where each of the children go off individually in search of wagon wheels are just so much fun! I love how vividly the children were described - big Jella, fat, slow Eelka, cheeky Auka, the bold twins (the trouble with being twins is "if you don't know something, you don't know it double!") and of course thoughtful Lina. Aside from them we also meet the town grouch Janus, who has lost both his legs and fiercely guards his cherry tree from magpies and young boys - and who ends up, with help from the impish yet honest Dirk and Pier, being quite the hero of the story, and not such an old grump after all! "I haven't had so much fun since that shark bit off my legs!" he exclaims, to the amazement of his wife who thinks Janus has gone a bit batty... I love how amused he was to hear that THAT was the story going around as to why he has no legs! (We never find out the real reason, either.) There's also spry old Douwa, who at 93 helps Lina to dig out the eventual wheel from beneath an old dinghy. I loved his glee at tricking his granddaughter and everyone else into joining them by making them think he was crazy! And she did indeed think he'd lost his mind and was rushing off to the dinghy to save his father, as he'd done 80 years ago after a storm... when he was in actual fact just going to get the wheel trapped under it ;) And of course the poor tin peddler who meets with cocky young Auka - and ends up being greatly helped by him. I adored those parts :)

I was sad, if amused, at the complete and utter loss of Eelka's wheel... so glad its parts made a return near the end! Although jeepers that rescue mission he and Jella staged was dangerous! Actually a lot of things the children did were quite dangerous... I have no idea how old they were meant to be (judging by the pictures, perhaps between 8 and 10?) or when exactly this was set, but there was a lot of freedom for the young kids to just go off on their own - they each took a road, Lina took the dike wall, Eelka was traipsing through farms, Auka ended up in Nes! Seemed like they went quite a long way from their homes in their quests... but it was fun, so very Famous Five-like :D This is one of those lovely stories where there's nothing really dangerous.

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02/17/2012 page 107
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