Wonder by R. J. Palacio

 

ChildrenWonder by R.J. PalacioIt’s not easy being the new kid in the 5th grade. Especially if you’ve been home schooled all your life. And even more especially if your face is deformed with genetic traits that make you face frightening to people who haven’t seen it before. August Pullman is that kid.

The middle school principle has three kids take Auggie on a tour of Beecher Prep before school starts. One of them, Jack, then sits by Auggie after classes started when no one else will come near him. One of them, Julian, torments and bullies Auggie behind the teachers’ backs. On the first day of school Summer looks at Auggie and knows she can’t let him sit at a lunch table by himself. In all the fifth grade, only Jack and Summer talk to Auggie or work with him.

Auggie starts to settle into fifth grade and school goes pretty well for a few weeks. Then it is Halloween. Only Auggie’s older sister, Olivia, is able to convince him to return to school after the horrors of that day. As the school year goes on, the fifth grade class at Beecher Prep is slowly changed. And so is Auggie, Olivia, Jack, and Summer.

A friend’s ten-year-old son and I were talking about books a couple months ago. He and I like a lot of the same books in his age group. I recommended one or two I thought he’d like. He insisted that I read Wonder. Thank you Devan!

Everyone wants to be “normal”, especially in the middle school and high school years. Augie will never be “normal”. There’s a wonderful chat with Jack when Jack asks Auggie why he doesn’t have plastic surgery. Auggie gets his smart aleck laugh going, points to his awkward face, and says, “This IS the plastic surgery.”

R.J. Palacio tells Auggie’s story through different people’s eyes. Auggie starts the story in Wonder. The reader understands how lucky is with his mother, father, and sister, and how difficult it is for him to go to school. He is a “normal” kid except for his face. But how do you get other people to see past the face?

Palacio not only tells Auggie’s own story, but switches to other people. Olivia has spent her life loving Auggie and defending him. Yet there are times when she would like some of that attention herself. She knows when it comes down to it, Auggie’s needs will beat hers. She doesn’t resent him, but at times wishes for a little more.

Jack tells part of the story. He has seen Auggie around the neighborhood and knows how frightening his face can be. But as he gets to know the boy behind the face, Jack knows that Auggie is a great, funny guy who can be a wonderful friend.

Palacio uses other people to tell Auggie’s story as well to show the reader most sides of fifth grade with August Pullman in it. Wonder is a story of love to see how special Auggie and Olivia both are in their family with their supportive parents. It’s a story of bullying, attacking things we don’t understand or frighten us that we don’t want to get to know. Some of the kids can’t get past Auggie’s face to discover the boy inside. It’s a story of triumph when kids who see past how he is different and find how Auggie is the same as they are.

Right now my nine-year-old granddaughter is reading Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. I’ve already recommended she read Wonder next. It’s excellent.

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