This marks my first book review on Mr. Peabody and I’m not sure where I’m going with this. If my vast readership are interested in such things, please let me know. If I hear crickets, I move on with my life. Nobody gets hurt.
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong is possibly my all time favorite children’s book. My mother, who was a school teacher studying children’s literature at the time, read it to me when I was small. Then I forgot about it for about 30 years. Now, as a third grade teacher, is has returned to my life. Lucky, lucky me.
It takes place in a small seaside village in Holland called Shora. One day in the little schoolhouse, the one girl, Lina, (of the six students total…that’s what I’m talking about), asks the teacher the question, rather out of the blue, “Why are there no storks in Shora?” It turns out they come and nest in all the surrounding villages but not in Shora. The teacher could have chosen to silence her with a fierce, “Can’t you see we’re in the middle of test prep?!!!” Instead, he honors her question by asking the students to wonder. “When you wonder very hard,” he says. “Things may begin to happen.” He then dismisses them from school an hour early with instructions “to go wonder.”
I’m not sure that’s going to bring up your CST scores, Dude.
The real adventure here, though, is when the kids decide they need a wagon wheel and, on Teacher’s orders, set out on different roads all across the countryside, searching for a spare wheel. Their wondering has turned into a community action project, trying to bring the storks back to Shora, and in their efforts they meet all sorts of amazing characters and find that the people they never noticed before, sitting on their stoops, or in their wheel chairs, or peddling their wares from a wagon and old horse, are all vital, engaging members of their community with the capacity for great kindness and heroism.
This is about as far as you can get from Hollywood. It’s funny, exciting, inspiring, and often brings me to tears. Get your DeJong on, people. You won’t be sorry.