Wonder by R. J. Palacio by R. J. Palacio
Click Here to Download the Book August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid-but his new classmates can't get past Auggie's extraordinary face. WONDER begins from Auggie's point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community's struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
Reviews August Pullman burrowed under my skin and punched me in my tear ducts pretty early on in this book. Maybe it was his Star Wars obsession, or his sense of humor, or his general spirit that captured me but it was probably all three—and so much more. As a kid with craniofacial abnormalities, he's heard it all, all the awful names kids (and adults) can come up with. He's seen all the horrified looks. Until this year, though, he'd never been to school. Wonder follows Auggie as he starts his year until he graduates from the fifth grade. The story is told from multiple viewpoints: Auggie, his sister, her boyfriend, her sister’s ex-best friend, and two of Auggie’s friends from school. The technique worked for me in this case, as it was fascinating to see events from different perspectives and to feel what each character was feeling. I keep trying to decide which narrator I enjoyed hearing from the most but they each gave me something to think about: What it means to be comfortable, how much influence parents have on their children’s personalities, how taking one minute to do something for someone else can make all the difference. I sound like a motivational speaker right now. Treat everyone with kindness! Teach your kids to look beyond looks! Let’s all just take care of each other! Middle grade books are hit or miss for me. I truly feel they must be some of the hardest books to write; children's books as well. Conveying messages to impressionable age groups while still telling an engaging and well-constructed story is a feat. I can see how some readers may view this book as heavy-handed or forcing moral values. I guess I just didn't see it. The book reads like what it is supposed to read like: A book about a young boy who is and manages to remain a wonderful and caring human being despite being subjected to numerous events that would make me want to go weep in my room. I think children are smart enough to know that not every child in Auggie's situation is surrounded with so many wonderful people. They go to school. They know that other kids are not always nice, especially to anyone who deviates from whatever is "normal" (if anything is normal). If books for children always told the truth, far more kids in books would be picked up by sex traffickers, be in abusive households, and struggle with food insecurity. Believing that the universe will take care of everyone is a bit delusional - that is not the case. But teaching children to believe that good things can happen to everyone and that there are more kind than evil people in the world? I don't see the harm in that. There is a fine line between playing on the emotions of your readers and emotional manipulation. I’m not a big crier in books - I can only think of three or four books that have made me tear up at all - but I cried several times in this book. (On a plane, no less!) I think there was only one segment of the book that felt overdone and that had to do with the family dog. And while I may or may not have snuggled with my dog after I read that
section, I didn’t cry because I’m not sold on the necessity of that portion of the book. However, I will concede that the dog’s character provided the perfect vehicle to introduce discussions of blind love and souls/bodies and those were highlights for me. (Hearing Auggie's thoughts about maybe coming back as a handsome man broke my heart a little bit.) The only other thing that didn't work for me was the usage of song lyrics. Then again, I’ve never been the biggest Natalie Merchant fan. I thought this book was wonderful (pun initially unintended but I'm leaving it in so I guess there is intent behind it now) and I absolutely recommend it to parents and teachers who would like to read something worthwhile and inspirational with children as well as to any readers who enjoy middle grade books.
My 5th grader has craniofacial anomalies and I feel that this book could not have been better written. RJ Palacio caught Auggie's voice so well and captured his challenges and strengths so beautifully that I still can't believe that she doesn't have a child who is living this life. I'm not going to try to summarize the story as many other reviewers have done that - I just want to talk about the emotional resonance of the work. The sheer truth of Auggie's journey is what meant the most to me. There are so many small moments that struck me to the core - e.g. Auggie's feelings about Halloween, the way Auggie has an easier time when his classmates understand that there's more to him than his face, Auggie's struggle to move past his need for coddling, even the food that Auggie eats. The most emotional moment for me came toward the end of the book when Auggie's father tells him that he loves the way Auggie looks, because that it exactly how my husband and I feel about our son. I wish that everyone would read this book, because it will help them understand the humanity of my son and everyone like him.
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