DeJong’s “The Wheel of the School”

544 words | 2 page(s)

DeJong’s “The Wheel of the School” is a children’s novel that presents the idea that goals that may seem unattainable are worth pursuing anyway merely for the experience in community-building that is derived from their aim. The novel does this by illustrating how members of a community can grow closer and stronger by working towards a common goal. DeJong further highlights this by initially posing the novel’s goal as something rather trivial in nature, but concluding the novel by showing how even silly goals can become all-consuming and passion-guided when a community pursues it hand-in-hand.

DeJong uses time-jumping literary techniques to heighten the tension of the piece, and thereby the passion of the pursuit of the goal. An example of this is that while Lina and Douwa wait to be rescued, the novel suddenly shifts to events involving other characters – including Janus, and the boys trying to fish a wheel out of a pond. This technique of deferring the drama of the protagonists and instead focusing on a group of boys pursuing the ultimate goal of finding the wheel, illustrates how even the structure of the novel is “obsessed” with the attainment of the wheel.

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Furthermore, DeJong uses literary symbolism to illustrate the ultimate moral of his novel within the image of the wheel itself and the effort of finding it. It could be said that the spokes of the wheel are representative of the community of people searching for it, and the center of the wheel is the “dream” being upheld by the spokes. It could be said that the very nature of a wheel itself, in its circular form, represents the coming together of various circumscriptions, or of the population outskirts, such as the villagers, to form a more solidified center, or a stronger sense of community.

DeJong eases his young readers into seeing the benefits of this viewpoint, of community-building and strength in numbers, by using an omniscient narrator to detail the thoughts and feelings of each of the children characters in the novel. By relaying the inner-minds of the young characters to the reader in such a direct way, DeJong can quickly indoctrinate his ideals.

“The Wheel of the School” is perhaps more of an allegory than a regular dramatically structured story, but it also serves as a model for young children to engage in efforts that may seem behind their reach. In the novel, as wagon wheels began to go out of use, the stork population of Shora begins a rapid decline. Apparently, storks used the wagon wheels for nesting. The children of the community noted this connection between the stork population and the preponderance of wagon wheels, and made a collective effort to save the storks by increasing the number of wagon wheels. This is exemplary of DeJong’s ultimate conceit that even a handful of small-time kids can somehow make a huge change by working together.

“The Wheel of the School” is another Newbery Medal recipient from Meindert DeJong. It also won the German Youth Literature Prize, likely on account of the Dutch main characters. Its foreign location and culture further exemplifies the idea that community-building and collective aims can be pursued and executed anywhere on the globe – it is a wholly human thing.

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