Released in 2012, R.J. Palacio’s Wonder found itself on many ‘Best Of’ lists last year. There is no doubt why, as Palacio has discovered a way to channel the voices of numerous kids, each with their own perspective on August (Auggie) Pullman, a boy born with severe facial deformities.
The book sounds like it could be a downer or a cause book, but it is so much more. Traversing a pivotal year for Auggie, 5th grade, which is also his first year in a traditional school. It is also a pivotal year for his sister, Olivia who is starting high school. They have similar problems finding friends, understanding who to trust and finding inner confidence. The book is told in parts, each from a different character’s perspective. Within each part are numerous short sections, each titled. This makes for an excellent incentive to non-readers to chip away at small intervals and for dedicated readers it allows a sneak peek at what’s to come.
“What kind of people are we? What kind of person are you? Isn’t that the most important thing of all?”
Refreshingly; the second tier characters in Wonder are just as fully realized and significant as the primary ones. Olivia has her first boyfriend, Justin, and he forms his own relationship with Auggie. Summer is a girl who fits her name. She is a constant and consistent light for Auggie and she helps him to see through other’s lies. The author also wisely infuses just enough pop culture into the book that it gives a sense of time and allows the reader to relate to the various fandoms and theatrical plays mentioned.
“She looked out at the ocean and spread her hands out, like she was trying to smooth out the waves.”
Another wonder in Wonder is that Palacio has managed to forge realistic, loving and yet not the typical cloyingly annoying parents for Auggie and Olivia. They respect their children’s privacy yet are there for them whenever needed. They are an admirable example of how to do it right.
“I like the sound of science. I like how words you don’t understand explain things you can’t understand.”
This is a must read for any children who struggle with a physical difference and a should read for any reader grade four and up who loves a warm-hearted well told story.
If you live in the Houston area don’t miss the opportunity to see R.J. Palacio on January 12, 2013 at Johnston Middle School. The event is free and sponsored by Inprint Readings for Young People : http://www.inprinthouston.org/r-j-palacio