Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Ages: 8-13 years (approximately grades 3-8)
For the past two years, Wonder by R.J. Palacio has taken the world of children’s literature by storm. Since its publication in February of 2012, Wonder has shot to the top of the New York Times Best Sellers List, has received countless starred reviews, and has been nominated for both an Illinois Bluestem Award (for children Grades 3 – 5) and for a Rebecca Caudill Award (for children Grades 5 – 8). The Wall Street Journal has even featured this book as a “must-read for 8 to 80-year-olds.” Why, then, has this book captured the hearts of millions of kids, teachers, librarians, parents? Perhaps it is because of its powerful storyline. Maybe it’s because of the relatable and memorable characters. It could be because of its altruistic message: choose kind.
Auggie is a 5th grade boy who has been homeschooled his entire life. Born with a cleft palate and other facial anomalies, Auggie endured many surgeries throughout his childhood, so his parents decided the best thing for him would be to be schooled at home. Until now. His parents think that he’s ready to start middle school, and after some resistance, Auggie comes around to the idea. Deep down, he feels like an ordinary boy, but wishes the rest of the world–especially the kids at his new school–would see him that way, too. On his first day, some of his new classmates give him a tour around the school. Auggie thinks that he’s made a new friend in one of the kids, a boy named Jack. He even finds a friend to sit with during lunch. It seems that this transition might be not so bad. But on Halloween when he overhears a conversation between Jack and a few other boys, Auggie realizes this friendship may not be at all what he thought it was. And school no longer seems like the right place for him.
From page one, Palacio puts you right in Auggie’s shoes. You experience his world through his eyes. You see how others look at him. You feel what he’s feeling. And you laugh when he laughs. What surprised me most about this book was the humor! Ultimately, though, what makes this book so special is that Wonder has heart. The book is divided into 8 sections, alternating between different characters telling the story from different points of view. First Auggie, then his sister, Via, then Auggie’s friends, then Via’s friends, then back to Auggie again. Each different voice deepens your understanding of Auggie and the impact his presence has within his family and the school community. The chapters are extremely short, but that quickens the pace of the book. You want to keep turning the page right until the very end. It’s heart-breaking and hopeful all at the same time.
Wonder draws you in and doesn’t let you go, the way a great book should. If you haven’t already seen the book trailer, take a look at it here. And when you stop by the library to grab a copy for your child, take a second copy for yourself. You won’t be sorry that you did. Wonder is truly wonderful.
Find Wonder in our catalog.