Newbery Project – Wheel on the Schoolhouse

This was a sweet story that managed to just dance back from becoming sentimental. It is very distinguished in its interpretation of theme, with the entire village being necessary to accomplish the final goal. On the first page the old people and the very young children are dismissed as “not very important” compared to the schoolchildren. Yet by the end of the book everyone comes together, and it is only through everyone’s unique input that the storks return.

Each character was well-drawn with his or her own motives and personality. I particularly liked Janus. His turnaround was a little quick, but at the same time I fully believed in his chance to go from “useless” to informal leader, so I’ll forgive the initial conversation with the boys.

The setting was also distinguished. This was not any particular coastal town, it was Shora, a small village in Holland with particular needs and customs.

I did find that there was a lot life-threatening actions taken just to get the storks. There were several times – getting the wheel, putting it on the school, getting the storks – when adults were perfectly happy to put children’s lives in danger. That part didn’t quite ring true from a realistic perspective, but it sure ratcheted up the tension and action!

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