Author R. J. Palacio wrote the novel “WONDER” after an experience with her own children in an ice cream store. She had quickly ushered her distraught young daughter out the door when she began crying at seeing a child with severe facial deformities. Palacio realized that as a parent she had not prepared her children or herself for such a situation and wished she could have shown kindness to the child in the store.
As school begins this year, I suggest parents and children read “WONDER” and talk about how to be more aware of children and teens that have visible facial deformities like Auggie or any other burdens to carry. It is a young adult novel with courage, humor, sadness, hope and happiness and a message that all ages can apply.
Auggie Pullman is truly a wonder. He tells the reader: ”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.”
He has been sheltered and homeschooled until age 10 when his parents enroll him in fifth grade at Beecher Prep. He wants desperately to be treated as an ordinary kid, but his facial deformities make life difficult for him. Chapters are written to show the point of view of not only Auggie but others in his life. Insight into the feelings and actions of the characters give us a chance to put ourselves in their place and ask ourselves how we would react.
Many characters in the book are wonderful and empathetic. His sister, his parents, and some of the students at his new school are examples of love and kindness. Others are mean and intolerant. There are some heart-breaking scenes of cruelty, but there are also stories of friendship and compassion as his family and others try to be accepting and supportive of this wonderful child.
I’m looking forward to the movie coming this fall with Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay. I know the movie won’t be as good as the book, so hurry and read it before going to the movie. Since this bestseller has sold more than 5 million copies, it is available at every library and every bookstore.