Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Ages 8 and up (From the publisher)

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

I won't mince words here.... EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK.....EVERYONE!

Wonder is the most compelling and touching story I have read in a long while.  You will fall immediately in love with Auggie.  August Pullman was born with a severe facial deformity.  The strong negative reaction of children (and shameful adults) to the way he looks has prevented him from attending school until he enrolls in 5th grade at Beecher Prep.  Although he is extremely reluctant, with the encouragement of his mother and incredibly loving family, August agrees to try to go to school. 

The well-meaning director of the middle school, Mr. Tushman (a very unfortunate name for a middle school administrator) sets up a visit before school started in order to help Auggie feel more comfortable.  He enlisted the help of a few of Auggie's fellow 5th graders to take him on a tour of the school.  Throughout the course of the book, you learn more about how the students were chosen and how this visit later creates huge conflicts.

Middle school is difficult for any student, but imagine how it could be for a child who looks very differently from his peers...someone who the others don't want to sit near, look at or talk to.  There are numerous incidents throughout this book that will make your blood boil.  Some people actually scream and run away when they see him.  Parents gasp and quickly move their children away from him.  The other students avoid brushing up against him so they won't catch "the plague".  He is picked on, talked about, physically injured and possibly worst of all...completely ignored.  One parent even crops his picture out of the class photo and gives it to parents who want an August-free photo.  This same parent tries to get him removed from the school because of his "special needs" even though he is a very bright student. 

Then there are the parts that will warm your heart as people get to know and love the real Auggie. Despite all the adversity, Auggie develops friendships with Jack and Summer.  These friendships are consistently tested by other classmates who feel Auggie is scary and different and therefore unworthy of attention or friendship.  Jack and Summer learn a lot about true friendship and are wonderful authentic examples of how young people can demonstrate true courage. 

I could go on and on.  In my opinion every parent should read this book with their elementary aged children.  As you read Wonder, there are numerous opportunities to discuss virtues of acceptance, courage, honesty, friendship, love and especially KINDNESS.  Teachers can share the story through read aloud and it lends itself to some very powerful and poignant classroom discussions. 
(I would encourage teachers and parents to read it before or just ahead of the kiddos.  Since Auggie has a teenaged sister, there is some teenage girl drama-type stuff, but not much.)

So go now!  But it, borrow it, download it-whatever you need to do to get your hands on Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  

Click to view a video trailer of Wonder

Click here for author interviews and activities 

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