Wonder by R. J. Palacio

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R.J. Palacio, Author

Random House Children’s Books, Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes:  Abnormalities, Differences, Friendship, Middle School, Self-esteem

Opening: “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.” 

Synopsis:  August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a rare facial deformity.  He has undergone many surgeries in his young life. He has dealt with people staring at him and rushing away in horror his 10 young years.  His mother has homeschooled August to protect him, but he’s about to start fifth grade,  His parents have taken a bold step and have enrolled him in Beecher Prep.  Although Auggie has learned to brace himself, he’s not happy about going to middle school.   It’s hard enough to be the new kid on the block.   But facing your classmates knowing there will be rejection, ridicule and cruelty is a lot to ask of any child.  The principal asks three students to be friends with Auggie and show him the ropes.  Among the three, Jack is the only true friend who really enjoys being with Auggie.  There are a few other kids who gather around to support Auggie.  Only Julian, the popular kid and class bully, turns the rest of the class against Auggie and Jack.  But Jack and Auggie will have their day when friendship  and kindness rule.

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What I like about this book:  Palacio has written a gripping story that is both heartbreaking and funny.  The chapters are short and are told in first-person from the viewpoint of each child who interacts with Auggie – which is very raw and revealing.  The author has done an excellent job of getting into the mind of each of his characters and letting readers experience their feelings and reactions.  We also see how Auggie grows and builds inner strength and courage.   Wonder is an excellent book to use in the classroom and encourage kids to talk about differences – visible or invisible.  Wonder has been named the by the New York Times as one of the Top Ten Notable Children’s Books for 2012.