Book Review: Wonder by R. J. Palacio
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
If you’re a constant Twitter-er like Karen and myself, then you may have seen the trending hashtag #thewonderofwonder floating around the Twittersphere. Many people are starting to catch on to this wonderfully crafted story and rightly so. I myself read this as a ARC from NetGalley several months back and when I finished it, thought simply, “This is one of the best books that I’ve ever read.”
And so begins Wonder. This book is told through multiple character’s POV, from August himself to his classmates and even his sister’s boyfriend. August has a severe facial deformity. He’s one of those children that we would double-take when walking down the street. Kids run from him on playgrounds and parents find themselves changing direction when they seem him coming their way. And while I sat and thought, “Who would do such a thing?” I realized that we all would. And we all have at some point in our lives.
Reading a story about a boy who so desperately wants to just be a boy made me reevaluate my quick judgements on people. While August struggles in school to make friends and his parents struggle with the idea of letting their son go off into the world, where they know he will encounter tough times, I sat back and began to judge myself and my own actions.
You can only imagine the type of reaction that his classmates have when August decides to attend school outside of the home for the first time. He makes friends and he makes enemies. There are even parents in the school who react negatively to August even attending the same school as their children. His story is not an easy one to read and at times, I cried for him and there were times that I wanted to punch characters in the face for being so horrible to him.
Some of the amazing parts of this book deal with August, but one of my favorite parts (and a co-worker as well) was the teacher who presents his 5th grade English class with monthly precepts and informs them that they are essentially “rules about really important things”. He tells them that over the summer, he expects the students to come up with their own precepts and mail them to him. One of my favorites: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” —John Wesley
When this book comes to a close, you will no doubt agree with me that this story is one that is rare, told once in a lifetime, and a story that binds us all together as human beings and teaches us to love without abandon. I give this book a galaxy of stars and it is a book that should win every award imaginable and should be assigned to every elementary, middle, high school, and college level curriculum because we could all use a little August Pullman in our lives. Discover #thewonderofwonder. You won’t be disappointed. (Stephanie Wilkes)
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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