Saturday, January 19, 2013


As you may have noticed, I have not been doing nearly the reading this past year that I used to do. It seems like my days are so occupied with technology integration! However, when a fellow school librarian recommended Wonder by RJ Palacio, I just had to stop and read it. (She raved about it, and commented that EVERYONE needed to read this book - which lead me to believe that it was one I shouldn't miss.)

Wonder is the story of Augie, a ten-year-old entering middle school. Auggie has been home-schooled, partly due to the fact that he has had many surgeries and health issues throughout his young life, but also because Auggie has a face that makes people turn away. Literally.

Auggie begins the story, and his wit and charm make the reader fall in love with him immediately. He is a courageous and bright child. We get to see the world from his perspective, and we come to know what he is thinking and feeling through his own words.

Following a stunning event that left me horrified, Auggie decides to leave school. It is Halloween, and all of the students are in costume. He comes in a different costume then the one he was planning to wear, and in doing so, is not recognized by his classmates. It is then that hears the terrible words of the one person he thought was his friend, making fun of him saying that he couldn't go on living if he looked like Auggie.

The next parts of the book are written through other characters in the story, and the perspectives it brings to the reader are amazing. I can't imagine any person reading this book without questioning his/her own sense of kindness; without recognizing times when a person's looks have clouded their acceptance of that person.

When I was in middle school (a hundred years ago) we had an "alert"  - a signal we gave - when a certain student was approaching. I don't really know why we thought she was so terrible. We certainly weren't all that cool. But for some reason  we scattered when she approached, and we giggled and squealed about it later. I look back with such shame on those days. I imagine some of the reason for my tears throughout this book were for the way I acted so many years ago.

Even today, there are times I see this behavior with adults. They move away quickly when someone "different" gets too close. They look down, avoid eye contact, shift uncomfortably. Or they stare, with pity written all over their faces.

Do I think Wonder should be read by everyone? Yes. By every adult, by every family, and by every young person. This is a book to be shared, and talked about, and cried over. But more importantly, this is a book that should change who we are and how we act.