Do You Know About Storks?
To start with there was Shora. Shora was a fishing village in Holland. It lay on the shore of the North Sea in Friesland, tight against the dike. Maybe that was why it was called Shora. It had some houses and a church and tower. In five of those houses lived the six school children of Shora, so that is important. There were a few more houses, but in those houses lived no children -- just old people. They were, well, just old people, so they weren't too important. There were more children, too, but young children, toddlers, not school children -- so that is not so important either.
The six children of Shora all went to the same little school. There was Jella; he was the biggest of the six. He was big and husky for his age. There was Eelka. He was slow and clumsy, except his mind; his mind was swift. There was Auka, and right here at the beginning there is nothing much to say about Auka -- he was just a nice, everyday boy. You could have fun with him. There were Pier and Dirk; they were brothers. Pier and Dirk looked about as much alike as second cousins. But Pier liked what Dirk liked, and Dirk did what Pier did. They liked to be together. They were twins.
Then there was Lina. She was the only girl in the little Shora school. One girl with five boys. Of course, there was also a teacher, a man teacher.
Maybe to begin with, we really should have started with Lina. Not because she was the only schoolgirl in Shora, but because she wrote a story about storks. There were no storks in Shora. Lina had written this story about storks of her own accord-the teacher hadnt asked her to write it. In fact, until Lina read it out loud to the five boysand the teacher, nobody in school had even thought about storks.
But there one day, right in the middle of the arithmetic lesson, Lina raised her hand and asked, "Teacher, may I read a little story about storks? I wrote it all myself, and it's about storks."
Lina called it a story, but it was really an essay, a composition. The teacher was so pleased that Lina had written a little piece of her own accord, he stopped the arithmetic lesson right there and let Lina read her story. She began with the tide and read on:
Do You Know About Storks?
Do you know about storks? Storks on your roof bring all kinds of good luck. I know this about storks; they are big and white and have long yellow bills andtall yellow legs. They build great big messy nests, sometimes right on your roof. But when they build a nest on the roof of a house, they bring good luck to that house and to the whole village that that house stands in. Storks do not sing. They make a noise like you do when you clap your hands when you feel happy and good. I think storks clap their bills to make the happy sounds when they feel happy and good. They clap their bills almost all the time except when they are in the marshes and ditches hunting for frogs and little fishes and things. Then they are quiet. But on your roof they are noisy. But it is a happy noise, and I like happy noises.
That is all I know about storks; but my aunt in the village of Nes knows a lot about storks, because every year two big storks come to build their nest right on her roof. But I do not know much about storks, because storks never come to Shora. They go to all the villages all around, but they never come to Shora. That is the most that I know aboutstorks, but if they came to Shora, I would know more about storks.
After Lina had finished reading her story, the room was quiet. The teacher stood there looking proud and pleased. Then he said, That was a fine story, Lina. A very fine composition, and you know quite a lot about storks!" His eyes were pleased and bright. He turned to big Jella. "Jella," he said, "what do you know about storks?"
"About storks, Teacher?" Jella said slowly. "About storks -- nothing." He looked surly and stubborn, because he felt stupid. He thought he ought to explain. "You see," he told the teacher, "I can't bring them down with my slingshot. I've tried and tried, but I just can't seem to do it."
The teacher looked startled. "But why would you want to shoot them down?"
"Oh, I don't know," Jella said. He wriggled a little in his seat. He looked unhappy. "Because they move, I guess."
"Oh, the teacher said. "Pier," he said then, "Dirk, what do you twins know about storks?"
"About storks?" Pier asked. "Nothing."
"Dirk," the teacher said.
"Just the same as Pier," Dirk said. "Nothing."
"Pier," the teacher said, "if I had asked Dirk first, what would have been your answer?"
"The same as Dirk's," Pier answered promptly. "Teacher, that's the trouble with being twins -- if you don't know something, you don't know it double."
The teacher and the room liked that. It made everybody laugh. "Well, Auka," the teacher said, "how about you?"
Auka was still chuckling and feeling good about what Pier had said, but now he looked serious. "All I know is that if storks make happy noises with their bills like Lina said in her story, then I would like storks, too."
Meindert DeJong is the award-winning author of many classic books for children, including the Newbery Medal-winning The Wheel On The Schooland the Newbery Honor-winning Along Came A Dog, Shadrach,and The House Of Sixty Fathers, all available in Harper Trophy editions and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Among Mr. Sendak's other popular books is his Caldecott Medal-winning Where The Wild Things Are.