This is the story of a boy named Wesley, who is an “outcast from the civilization around him,” and decides to use the knowledge he’s obtained during the school year to create his own civilization as a summer project. In creating this culture (which includes staple crop, clothes, sun dial, numeric system based on 8 numbers, games, language, etc.) he calls "Weslandia," Wesley draws attention from his classmates who once made fun of him, and eventually becomes their friend when he returns to school in the fall.
Wesley's status as a social outsider is clear from the book's beginning. The boy listens to his mother secretly through a heating vent as she tells his father that Wesley is “miserable” and “sticks out.” Wesley acknowledges his reclusiveness, but rather than live in misery, he accepts this life as an outsider, choosing to live according to his own desires instead of assimilating to traditional social customs. He knows that he is “an outcast from the civilization around him” because he doesn’t like pizza or soda, he thinks football is stupid, and he refuses to have the same hairstyle the rest of the boys have. In this way, Weslandia stand out among other books we have analyzed as a great example of children's literature that deals with the issues of assimilation as well as accepting one's own identity and others' identities: instead of conforming to the society around him, Wesley is able to create his own.
Wesley is not only book smart, but also capable of applying his knowledge in real life. By interpretating what he has learned in school, he decides that a civilization can be made simply by creating the basic building blocks: a staple food crop, Wesley knows, is essential, so he begins by creating that. Then he invents elements of a civilization out of sheer necessity (like loose fitting clothing because he’s too hot) leading him to become a member of his civilization and no longer a creator of it.
There is a problem with
this book in its sense of reality: Wesley does not have any friends, but instead
faces “plenty of tormentors,” however, the book doesn’t dwell
on this fact but moves, perhaps too quickly, to Wesley’s epiphany that
he can create his own civilization. In accurately portraying a character who
fights assimilating into the social norm, Weslandia neglects these
realities of bullying and loneliness, rather depicting Wesley as character that
is unbothered by societal pressures around him.
Before summer's end, the neighborhood kids who had once bullied Wesley take interest in his civilization and by the time school begins, become his friend. They see the value in Wesley's determination to pursue his own identity, and not only accept this individuality, but also conform to his once-deemed "outsider" ways. His new friends are dressed in the clothes that Wesley created for his civilization, which provides an interesting irony to the issue of assimilation.
Excerpted from Candlewick Press
From delightful read-alouds to tongue-in-cheek novels for young adults, from historical nonfiction to contemporary verse, Paul Fleischman's books certainly constitute a rich and varied crop. The idea for A Fate Totally Worse Than Death , a hilarious spoof on horror novels, harks back to his own youth, when he used to keep copies of MAD MAGAZINE in his notebook to read during class. "As a teenager I loved humor that mocked the adult world," he says. "As an adult I realized there's very little young-adult humor that asks teenagers to laugh at themselves." In the nonfiction Dateline: Troy, the author retells Homer's epic poem The Iliad ingeniously juxtaposing each episode with newspaper clippings of modern events from the First World War through to the Gulf War to reveal astonishing parallels between the ancient world and our own.
Paul Fleischman recalls growing up in a home filled with books and music, two early influences that continue to resonate. "After years alone on the piano bench," he says, "I finally learned to play the recorder, and fell in love with the camaraderie of chamber music. What joy!" His attempt to bring a similar kind of bliss to spoken quartets resulted in Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices, a book whose poems are meant to be read by multiple voices, creating a music and camaraderie of their own.
Before he became a full-time writer, Paul Fleischman worked at a retirement home, a bagel bakery, a library, in bookstores, and as a proofreader. After sojourns in New Mexico, Vermont, and Nebraska, he settled down in his home state of California.
Excerpted from Candlewick Press
"My work is often described as offbeat or quirky," says illustrator Kevin Hawkes. "But I also have a love for traditional painting." Indeed, Kevin Hawkes is the rare artist whose work spans the gamut from vibrant, whimsical fantasy to rich, intricate realism with equally extraordinary results.
"Much of my early childhood was spent traveling in the back of a white Rambler station wagon," recalls Kevin Hawkes, whose father was an officer in the Air Force. "We moved all the time. I was always the new kid, always a bit apart." Like the shipwrecked mariner in Robinson Crusoe, his favorite book, Kevin Hawkes as a boy spent many hours by himself, hiking, exploring, constructing forts and towers, and tracking animals. So when he first read the draft of Paul Fleischman's Weslandia, the story of a young nonconformist who creates his own backyard civilization, it spoke to him "immediately, on every level." Drawing on both boyhood memories and his own active imagination, Kevin Hawkes created a lush, mesmerizing environment for Weslandia that earned him the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for "outstanding illustration in a children's book."
When he's not hard at work in his studio, Kevin Hawkes likes to garden, read, ride his bike, go camping, or craft homemade Christmas gifts with his wife and four children. "Every year we try something different," he says--from making handmade glass beads to weaving, carpentry, stone-carving, and creating ceramics and mosaics. He lives with his family in Gorham, Maine.
Adapted from Candlewick Press and Weslandia's cover
Sometimes a story needs time to germinate. Newbery Medal-winning author Paul Fleischman says that was the case with Weslandia, his highly celebrated tale of a kid who creates his own backyard civilization. "For fifteen years, in notebook after notebook, I played with the idea of a farmer who plows the earth but lets the wind seed his crop-as Wesley does-thrilled to open his land to chance, to invite the unknown," he says. Helping to fertilize the idea were the author's own experiences, including the process of homeschooling his sons, which "added elements of nonconformity and discovery," and memories from a creative childhood. “My friends and I invented our own sports, ran an underground newspaper, and created our own school culture,” he says. "We printed our own books and my father [writer Sid Fleischman] read his own works-in-progress aloud."
H ardcover - May 1999 by Candlewick Press
Audio Cassette - July 2000 by Spoken Arts
Paperback - August 2000
Paperback Reprint - December 2002