A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Gary Soto (Baseball in April and Other Stories, Too Many Tamales).
- Itâ€™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 â€śRock Around the Clock.â€ť Read Bats Around the Clock by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and Boom Chicka Rock by John Archambault, illustrated by Suzanne Tanner Chitwood.
- Itâ€™s National Licorice Day. Read Arthurâ€™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 Clearyâ€™s birthday also falls on this day, families can find no better place to go than Clearyâ€™s books.
Today Iâ€™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. Palacioâ€™s Wonder from cover to cover. In this book, ideal for ten- to fourteen-year-olds, Palacio explores the issues of beauty and deformityâ€”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 avoidanceâ€”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. Heâ€™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 issuesâ€”but also makes readers care for a very special, and very endearing, young boy.
Hereâ€™s a passage from Wonder:
I know Iâ€™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 donâ€™t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids donâ€™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.
Originally posted April 12, 2012. Updated for .