A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
APRIL 12:

  • Happy birthday Gary Soto (Baseball in April and Other Stories, Too Many Tamales).
  • It’s the birth date of C. W. Anderson (1891-1971), Billy and Blaze: A Boy and His Pony, Hardie Gramatky (1907-1979), Little Toot, Paul Showers (1910-1999), The Listening Walk, and Barbara Corcoran (1911-2003), Wolf at the Door.
  • In 1954, musical group Bill Haley and His Comets record the song “Rock Around the Clock.” Read Bats Around the Clock by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and Boom Chicka Rock by John Archambault, illustrated by Suzanne Tanner Chitwood.
  • It’s National Licorice Day. Read Arthur’s Funny Money by Lillian Hoban.

April 12 marks a day that I am very fond of: Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day. It reminds us to put aside whatever we are doing and take time to enjoy a book. Since Beverly Cleary’s birthday also falls on this day, families can find no better place to go than Cleary’s books.

Today I’d like to talk about a 2012 title that literally made me drop everything after I picked it up. Appointments, phone calls, and e-mails got put aside until I had read R. J. Palacio’s Wonder from cover to cover. In this book, ideal for ten- to fourteen-year-olds, Palacio explores the issues of beauty and deformity—what physical appearance means in American culture. Fate has not been kind to ten-year-old Augustus or Auggie. Born with a deformed face that has necessitated years of corrective surgery, he still cannot blend in or look like others. With protective parents and sister who have done, and continue to do, everything for him, Auggie faces his first year of regular school in fifth grade; until then he has been homeschooled, mainly due to the time needed for medical procedures. Although the caring principal, with the unfortunate name of Mr. Tushman, tries to ease Auggie’s transition into the school by assigning students to look out for him, Auggie will have to face all kinds of abuse and avoidance—something he has grown to understand.

This material, of course, could well be the description of a worthy novel that everyone would want to avoid rather than devour. But Auggie immediately endears himself to readers. Rather than wallowing in self-pity, he is witty and realistic about his problems. He’s a good listener and a true friend. And although many of the students initially focus only on how he looks, the most beautiful girl in the school actually finds comfort in sitting with him and talking to him. She, too, knows what it is liked to be judged for her physical appearance.

Alternating voices and characters to tell the story, Palacio demonstrates a profound understanding of children and their dynamics in her first novel. She brings the classroom and school hallways to life as the reader walks in Auggie’s shoes for three hundred pages. A three-handkerchief ending will leave many crying. In the end, Auggie’s character, not his face, wins the day.

A fabulous book for classroom sharing or book discussion groups, Wonder has already become quite popular with young readers. With a fresh voice and a fresh viewpoint, it allows for the discussion of important issues—but also makes readers care for a very special, and very endearing, young boy.

Here’s a passage from Wonder:

I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an Xbox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.

If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all.

Share

Originally posted April 12, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: Family, School, Special Needs
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Wonder
One year ago: Henry Huggins
Share

COMMENTS

  1. Oh, I love that you connected Wonder to the sadly somewhat overlooked The Schwa was Here. Both are terrific.

  2. Darshna Katwala says:

    This is book I can’t wait to devour with my three daughters. Thanks for the terrific write-up and sharing your wonder of books.

  3. Jen says:

    I am in love with this book. I love the message. When I think of Wonder, I start to think of all the people to whom I wish I could give a copy of the book. It starts with one person and then it becomes a giant list every time. A great book for everyone working with children or really anyone in general.

  4. Ariel Cooke says:

    This book blew me away too.

  5. Susan Crean says:

    I was also mesmerized by Wonder, and the lovable Auggie. One of my fifth graders told me, “Everyone should read this book. It could change them.” I totally agree. Empathy is what our culture is lacking and this book is a prescription for that.
    Amazing!

  6. Anita says:

    Thanks Monica and everyone for your comments and support of this new title — and new author.

  7. John says:

    I think about Auggie at least once per day. It took me at least four weeks before I could talk about him without crying.

    My fourth- and fifth-grade students have responded so positively to this book. Thank you for celebrating R.J. Palacio’s stunning debut.

  8. Fran in Texas says:

    I checked John’s blog and was reminded about your new book, The Plant Hunters. (It’s out today, people!) Congratulations, Anita!!

    Re today’s excellent book, I saw an interview with R.J. Palacio that tells how she came to write it. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/9086974/Interview-with-RJ-Palacio-author-of-Wonder.html Books like this provide life lessons for us all.

  9. Momo says:

    I agree reading this book was totally engrossing but although it did really touch me as an adult reader I do question which children it will appeal to. I am interested to read some of the comments here discussing reading this book with younger students. I thought you should know there has been an enormous amount of promotion of this book here in Australia. I too kept thinking of people (adults) that I would like to read this book. The response of others to our appearance can be so damaging – we live in a world that values superficial beauty and judges ‘ugliness’ harshly. Augie presents an important lesson for all of us.

  10. McCourt says:

    I really loved this story. My 13-year-old daughter enjoyed it as well. I was happy to see it made the 2013 Texas Bluebonnet list this year, so I will be able to hear more from the kids on what they think of the book and its message.

  11. kat patterson says:

    I heard this was a must read book, but put off buyinig it. Then it sat around my house for a while before I picked it up. Once I started it, I couldn’t stop. I started crying at the Halloween costume incident, and didn’t stop til I was finished with the book.

    One of my teachers at our middle school wants it to be a whole school-wide read. I think it would be a WONDERful idea!!! I think every one of our students would be able to connect to Auggie in some way. Maybe not physical deformaties, but other things in their lives that make them the recipient of the same type of treatment.

    Bravo R J Palacio!!!!!

  12. Anita says:

    Not only have entire schools used Wonder as an all-school read but so have some cities and towns. It works extremely well for this purpose.

  13. G. Perry says:

    The down side of the treasure which Anita is, is that her experience, passion and skill can and will, pull you into children’s books, which are all great works; all beautiful; but some, are terrible and beautiful.

    I attempted to read this several times and repeatedly stopped. I was quickly mindful of why. Though I had no physical appearance battles to fight, the story simply came too close for my personal early-days comfort.

    When a book makes your ears ring, you know you’ve got yourself an important encounter from the past. Freud said profound issues will return until resolved. I think that’s one thing he got right.

    However I’m now in the last pages of this book today, and I have to say it really is. a beautiful, beautiful book and I’m glad I faced it down.

    You know, I always wonder just how personally close to a story like this authors have been in their own lives,
    Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian comes to mind. I have a gut-feeling books like this cannot be written simply from skill. This kind of book has to come from some personal experience or special knowledge. It’s just too powerful to be completely made up.

    Thank you Sam!

  14. Anita says:

    Gordon: Like you, I approached this book cautiously. But I found it such a satisfying reading experience. Glad you thought so too.

  15. KarenBanks14 says:

    I love this book! I’m looking forward to a discussion I’m having on Wednesday with a class of 4th graders. They had read the book as a class read-aloud, but I was just getting started. They asked me to come back when I’d finished so we could talk as readers and writers. This will be the highlight of my week!

Leave a Comment

Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .

The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .

And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large.