I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
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?
R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.
Every single person from 10 years to adults should read this book. August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a genetic defect that changed his face. He and his family are perfectly aware of the attention he attracts, and the decision to send him to 'outside school' for the first time in Grade 5 was not taken lightly. This is the story of Auggie's life through middle school, and it is an unbelievably inspiring, life-changing journey.
The narrative is told from different points of view, which makes the story more real for all kinds of readers. Not everyone sees Auggie in the same light, and each has their own way of coming to understand and love him. Via has been through a lot as August's elder sister, and though she's one of the most generous, loving sisters ever, the pressures of high school are taking their toll. But for her brief moments of weakness she more than makes up with a determination to start over that makes this story inspiring and relevant for every teen. Justin, Via's new boyfriend, is an easy-going, down to earth character, yet somehow his simplicity allows him to perceive things at a deeper level than most. His thoughts about whether 'the universe' was really unkind to Auggie Pullman are profound, and his conclusion is perfect. That page titled 'The Universe' would make an excellent stimulant for discussion.
Summer is one of those extraordinary kids who observe with their heart and are not afraid to act. Jack is every kid who has cause to regret a friendship bungle, and who, in the process, learns so much about the kind of person he wants to be. Miranda, Via's old friend, perhaps has it hardest of them all, and her difficulties seem set to ruin her life. Yet she is one of the few who have always seen Auggie as the wonder he truly is, and because of him she finds her way home.
Others' points of view are interspersed with Auggie's own, and it's beautiful to see his character grow: what a transformation from the beginning to the end; what a lot he has to go through. Initially he shows us an excusable frustration with his condition and people's reaction to it, and his middle childhood growing pains are so much more acute than those of others. Like Via says, "My worst day, worst fall, worst headache, worst bruise, worst cramp, worst mean thing anyone could say has always been nothing compared to what August has gone through." But more than this, we see the strength of his loving family which nurtures in him the qualities that make him so special: courage, kindness, friendship, character, helping him become someone truly great, someone "whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own." Those last few chapters which include Mr Tushman's speech would make another inspiring discussion.
Somehow the genuineness of Auggie's situation naturalises all the advice the reader is given. There are references to lots of wonderful books: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and one of the most profound quotes from Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and all the quotes are meaningfully connected with the characters. And then there are Mr Browne's 'precepts' which are a kind of motto for his class to follow each month, another great idea that is subtle but so effective, you'll want to memorise the full list at the end.
After reading the book we wanted to find out more about the author. Who is the person who can write something like this? What we learned from her blog only made us love the book more. Her last note of thanks went to "the little girl in front of the ice cream shop and all the other "Auggies," whose stories have inspired me to write this book." She said that there were passages where she cried while writing it, and gives a moving account of reading it to her own son. This is a person we would like to know.
Reviewed by Clare Cannon
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