In Whirligig by Paul Fleischman, Brent travels to the four corners of the United States of America and builds whirligigs on his mission of repentance. Each Whirligig has a unique appearance and meets the needs of it’s (observer?) in a different way. The first whirligig was put in a state park near Puget Sound. Being Brent’s first whirligig , he had a little trouble creating it. Originally, it was supposed to be an angel playing a full sized orchestral harp, but he accidentally broke off it’s wing while he was filing it. Afterwards, it became just an ordinary human who looked as if she was playing the harp when the wind blew. The key observer of this whirligig was Tony, a 5th grader, who wants to play baseball but is forced to play violin instead. When he went camping with his family over the summer, his mother spotted it and used it as reinforcement to practice his instrument. “Remember the harp player Anthony, always practicing” she would say. This finally pushed him over the edge, he found a way to get out of practicing and messed up horribly at his big rehearsal. Afterwards, his teacher told him that if the whirligig played all the time, it would break. Then he quit and followed his baseball dreams.
The second whirligig was made in San Diego and placed on the porch of a youth hostel there. This wind toy depicted a whale whose spout went up and down in the wind. After realizing that Lea was not in this whirligig Brent added a mermaid to the top of the whale’s spout. The viewer of this whirligig is Jenny’s grandmother. She came to the states after World War II with the memories of those that died in the concentration camps still plaguing her. This toy showed her that she should live a life of laughing, not sadness. And that you should live all the laughs that were taken away from them. The third whirligig was made in a beachside parking lot in Tampa, Florida. It featured a marching band that had a trombonist, a trumpeter, a clarinetist, and a drummer. When the wind blew, it looked like they were marching, their instruments rising up and down with the tempo. He decided to make Lea the clarinetist.
The band’s viewer was a Puerto Rican immigrant who hates conflict. All his life the people around him have been fighting. When he sees the marching band he realizes that people live in flocks, and when you live in a flock there will always be conflict. That is how life is.
The fourth and final whirligig was built in Weeksboro, Maine. Since Brent had improved greatly at woodworking, he decided to create his own whirligig out of driftwood and other stuff he found on the ground. It didn’t depict anything in particular, but had Lea’s head carved on top. He ended up giving it to a painter that he connected deeply with to put in her yard. Stephanie, a teenage girl with boy issues, is the main observer for Brent’s final whirligig. She is a science girl who is skeptical of mental things such as dreaming and psychics. After she is forced into a guided imagery session by her friend in front of the whirligig, she realizes that dreaming is an important part of life and that thoughts can make a difference. Brent’s four whirligigs helped many people with their problems. Most of all though, these whirligigs helped Brent on his mission of repentance and overcoming the past.