October 27, 2017
You were probably an ordinary kid. Did you ever experience a terrifying first day in a new school?
Consider Auggie. He feels ordinary inside but no one else sees him as ordinary. As he expresses: kids don’t scream and run away if you’re ordinary….they don’t stare.
This is the advice 10-year-old August Pullman receives from his parents on the first day of school:
“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.”
Because the movie Wonder releases in theaters on November 17, 2017, it seems timely to provide a review of the book.
by R. J. Palacio
Genre/categories: Middle grade through adult contemporary fiction, growing up, difficult discussions, family life, friendship, character traits
On the inside, ten-year-old August Pullman feels very ordinary. But as he says, ordinary kids don’t make other kids run away screaming and they don’t get stared at wherever they go. Auggie was born with a rare genetic abnormality that affected the formation of his face. Because of extensive surgeries and an attempt to protect him from cruelties of the outside world, Auggie’s parents have home schooled him. The reader meets 5th grade Auggie as he’s being enrolled in a traditional school for the first time. Will he be accepted? Will he find friends? Will he find a hostile or friendly environment? How will adults in his life support him? The story is told from six perspectives (August, Via–his older sister, Summer–a friendly caring peer, Jack–a student leader who struggles in his role as friend, Miranda–his sister’s best friend and a close family friend, and Justin–Miranda’s boyfriend) plus a bonus chapter from Julian’s point of view (Auggie’s nemesis). Amazon Rating: (an amazing) 4.9 Stars
If you plan to see the movie, don’t miss out on reading the book first! It’s an easy, engaging, thoughtful, inspirational, and meaningful read with valuable discussion possibilities for the entire family.
As we venture to school with Auggie, we feel his daily apprehension and celebrate his courage and determination. Even though he thinks of himself on the inside as an ordinary kid, we know he doesn’t look ordinary and his severe facial abnormality could cause him to be the object of unkind actions by his peers and to experience bullying.
Throughout the story, the narrative changes perspectives with each chapter. This helps us get a 360 degree understanding of Auggie’s world and also allows us to see the nice circle of people who care for him and support him. In addition, it allows the reader to understand that everyone battles something. Because this is written for a children’s audience, it does have a happy ending where ‘good” people are rewarded and the “bad” get their punishment. I like that there is an epilogue (extra chapter) in the current version of the book that follows Auggie’s nemesis Julian and we see how Julian changes and grows in empathy and compassion
The story takes a dramatic turn when Auggie overhears his friend Jack’s derogatory remarks about him; he is discouraged and devastated, and everything changes as he has to fight to rebuild what he’s lost. Through these authentic middle grade voices, we learn about true friendship, risk, and the importance of kindness.
I especially admire Auggies’s English teacher who each month presents the idea of precepts to live by and encourages students to write their own…an example of a precept he presents is “When given the choice between being right or kind, choose kind.” In an attempt to establish the habit of writing precepts as a lifelong practice, he encourages students to email their precepts to him in the years after graduation. Auggie’s 5th grade precept is “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation once in their lives because we all overcometh the world.”
The following is a sampling of the types of quotes you will find from the adults in the story:
“Kinder than necessary,” he repeated. “What a marvelous line, isn’t it? Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, that concept is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness. And what does that mean? How is that measured? You can’t use a yardstick. It’s like I was saying just before: it’s not like measuring how much you’ve grown in a year. It’s not exactly quantifiable, is it? How do we know we’ve been kind? What is being kind, anyway?”
“….If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary–the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”
“It’s not just the nature of kindness, but the nature of one’s kindness. The power of one’s friendship. The test of one’s character. The strength of one’s courage–”
Don’t miss out on this inspirational story filled with heart, heroes, and humor and which inspired the Kindness Movement. I expect that Wonder will become a beloved classic in upper grade classrooms and in family libraries. Highly recommended for every reader who believes in the power of teaching through a story and for every family who is in the process of building empathy, compassion, and kindness. I believe good literature can be enjoyed by all ages!
“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”
My rating: 4.5 stars (I tried to read this and rate it from a kid’s perspective. As an adult reader, however, I lowered the rating by half a star because it could have included more beautiful writing and some adults seem stereotypical and could have been more fully developed.)
There is an additional book, Auggie & Me. It’s not a sequel, rather a companion read and an extension of Auggie’s world with three additional points of view.
Meet the Author, R. J. Palacio
R. J. Palacio was born and raised in New York City. She attended the High School of Art and Design and the Parsons School of Design, where she majored in illustration with the hopes of someday following in the footsteps of her favorite childhood author-illustrators, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Maurice Sendak, and the D’Aulaires. She was a graphic designer and art director for many years before writing Wonder. We’re All Wonders, which is based conceptually on the themes of her novel, represents the fulfillment of her dream to write and illustrate her own picture book. R.J. is also the author of Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories and 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is surrounded by magical water towers, with her husband, their two sons, and their two dogs, Bear and Beau. Learn more about her at rjpalacio.com or on Twitter at @RJPalacio.
Happy Reading Bookworms!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
Denise J Hughes
In my last post, I indicated that I would read and review If the Creek Don’t Rise. I did read it; however, I decided that Wonder would be the primary focus of my review this week so that I can encourage you to read it before the movie releases. Here’s my brief review of If the Creek Don’t Rise.
If the Creek Don’t Rise
by Leah Weiss
Genre/categories: Literary Fiction, historical fiction, small town, rural, Appalachia, hillbilly culture
Young Sadie Blue lives in the North Carolina mountain town of Baines Creek and suffers abuse at the hands of her drunken husband, Roy Tupkin. When a new teacher comes to town, Sadie begins to think of finding her voice and of a life that doesn’t include Roy.
Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars
Harsh and hard realities of life in this remote Appalachian community make If the Creek Don’t Rise a gritty and sobering read. Young Sadie Blue is pregnant, abused, mistreated, and struggling to find her voice. Only a few chapters are from Sadie’s POV. The story is told from multiple viewpoints giving readers a good perspective of her life and the hillbilly community. Some characters offer hope and healing while others are despicable. Sadie does find her voice in a way that surprised me (but maybe it shouldn’t have given her situation and the hillbilly culture). As a teacher, I hoped to learn more about the new teacher’s contribution to the youth of the community….I’m always looking for hope and redemption in a story….but after the teacher’s strong introduction, she fades into the background of the story. This is also disappointing because she is important to Sadie. Overall, I enjoyed the read and the excellent writing; however, I hesitate to recommend it because I don’t think it’s a read that everyone would enjoy. It’s gritty and a bit dark but certainly an impressive debut novel. I would encourage you to read additional reviews.
My Rating: 4 Stars
My library hold of Young Jane Young finally came in so I think I’ll read and review that for next week. I’m a bit apprehensive because it borders on “chick lit” and that’s not my usual genre. However, it’s a selected read for my online book club at Modern Mrs. Darcy and will be a good break from some heavier reads.
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I’m curious if you’ve read Wonder! Do you have children that have read it? I’d love to hear your (or their) reflection. Do you plan to see the movie? How do you feel about teaching character traits such as empathy and kindness through literature? What are you reading this week?