I’ve more than dipped my toe into Young Adult fiction lately and I’m realizing that my initial hesitation was that it would be too “young”. I am learning that I’m wrong. There is much to be discovered from a good YA book. I mean, I grew up reading it. Some of my fondest memories and some of my favourite books fall into this category, so I’m glad I’ve broadened my horizons.
My latest read was sent from the book Gods.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio truly is extraordinary from beginning to end. There is a deep-rooted lesson of not judging a book by its cover, or in this case, a boy by his face. It’s beautifully written, about a charming little boy who was born with an extreme facial deformity.
It is a book I cannot wait to read to my kids.
I laughed, and I cried. And I think they would do the same.
August (Auggie) Pullman has been through more medical procedures than any fifth grader should ever have to go through, but his biggest challenge is starting real school. Up to this point, his mother has homeschooled him, due to his extensive surgeries and recoveries, it would have been hard for him to maintain a schedule.
This boy is smart, kind and fully aware that people are afraid of how he looks. He can see that quick blink, hear their intake of breath (due to shock over his appearance), their hesitation to be close to him, unsure if they will “catch” whatever he has. For a ten-year old, he’s pretty perceptive, so it’s understandable that he’s scared to subject himself to middle school.
With a lot of bravery and support from his adorable parents, we are taken on the journey with Auggie as he navigates homework, friends, teachers and the dreaded school cafeteria!
The book, told through various points of view, was emotional, inspiring and heartbreaking. As a parent, I held my breath and cheered all the same time for all the characters. It was heartwarming and poignant to read about a young boy just trying to fit in, probably because it’s so relatable. It’s hard enough getting through elementary school unscathed. There is no rhyme or reason why some people get picked on, what’s considered cool and suddenly not cool. Add to that the fact that Auggie looks very different from the rest of the kids, and you already know how it’s going to turn out.
The underlying message in the entire book is choose kindness. And while there is full compassion for this brave boy, there is deep sorrow for Via’s honesty and how she feels growing up in a family where her little brother holds the core position. It’s raw, and I felt sympathetic towards her. But the bond she shares with her little brother is beautiful and in the end, unbreakable.
What I love most about the book is the realness of it all. Mr. Tushman, the long-winded school Director, and Mr. Browne English teacher trying hard to instill kindness in a bunch of ten-year old’s. Summer, the sensitive girl who bravely sits with an odd-looking boy by himself in the cafeteria on the first day of school and Julian, the boy who hides behind his cruel words and close-minded mother. Add Olivia (Via) the protective, but vulnerable older sister who isn’t afraid to call it as she sees it and defend her little brother. And then there is Jack Will, a little boy who is learns that love and kindness are more important that popularity.
What I took from this book, aside from the resounding lesson to not judge a boy by his face, was that there really can be kindness in the world if we all try. Mr. Browne’s Precepts are woven throughout the book and really are a wonderful way to illustrate these lessons. This book should be a mandatory read in school. Do elementary school kids get mandatory reads? If not, implement it in Grade 9. Implement Precepts. Implement Mr. Browne’s Precepts.
My girls are six and nine years old and I’m ready to read this to them now. And again, every year until they finish high school. There are lessons to be learned and kindness never gets old. The movie, starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Jacob Tremblay, Mandy Patinkin and Daveed Diggs is coming out in November, and the trailer looks like it may do the book justice (fingers crossed).
Wonder really was a moving book, that brought me to tears and left a huge impression on my heart.
Five big, fat stars!