Monday, March 4

Wonder

Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012, 320 pp, ISBN: 0375869026
Recap:
August Pullman doesn't look like anyone else. Born with a severe facial deformity that is still dramatic even after years of plastic surgery, Auggie tells readers "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

At the beginning of August's 5th grade year, he starts attending public school for the first time in his life. Not surprisingly, the transition is anything but easy.

But August's life is like real life - nothing can be all good or all bad, people will always surprise you, there is always hope.

Review:
Book lovers, I am woefully late to the party that is Wonder. Admittedly, I skipped it on purpose. I knew the gist of the story, and just didn't feel like being depressed. But it's one of the Contenders for the 2013 BOB so off to the library I went. Two nights ago I posted on my sister's facebook wall "Please give me some encouragement to start Wonder..." Within 30 minutes there was a LIST of different people telling me to read it immediately, and they all used lots of exclamation points. I couldn't avoid it any longer.

And I am kicking myself for waiting so long. Wonder is 100% about one boy's face, and how it affects the people around him. But you know what? It's also not really about his face at all. Wonder is about all of us. It's about how we choose to treat each other - how much effort we are willing to make to reach out, to love, to empathize with one another, whether we know each other or not. Wonder is about living life courageously, and with a sense of humor. It is about doing the right thing, not because we will be applauded or appreciated - but doing the right thing, even when others may laugh or turn their backs, simply because it is right.

As I read, I couldn't help but think of my son, Lincoln. He has the sweetest spirit and the kindest heart, and I just pray that his dad and I can help him to nurture and guard those qualities as he grows up. I hope that Lincoln grows up to be like Auggie, or Via, or Jack, or Summer. I never buy books, but there is no doubt that I will be adding a copy of Wonder to Linc's bookshelf.

One note about the format: I've read some reviews where the reader really didn't care for the way the narrators switched around to include a variety of different people in August's life. While I thought some choices were surprising (his sister's boyfriend for one), the changing narrators never once pulled me out of the story. In fact, I felt like they added so much more dimension. Because of the multiple first-person perspectives, we were able to witness a variety of personal transformations on a very intimate level. I loved that. But I just really wished Mr. Browne had had his own chapters; his precepts were one of my favorite parts of the book!

Recommendation:
Read it. Read it to your children. Read it in your book club. Read it with your students, or your spouse, or your best friend. Wonder is literally a must-read.

BOB Prediction:
Oh man, this is a tough one. A huge part of me wants to predict that Wonder will go all the way to the Big Kahuna Round. However... it's up against Bomb in the first round. Potentially life-changing fiction vs. absolutely brilliant nonfiction. This one is too close for me to call; I'd be happy either way!

Quotable Quotes:
"Shall we make a new rule of life... always try to be a little kinder than necessary." - J.M. Barrie

"Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world." - August Pullman

"If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than necessary - the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God." - Mr. Tushman

5 comments:

  1. I sampled this one once and cried. So I bought it. But I keep waiting to muster up the courage. As a mother, I think the little I read really hit me.

    Great review.

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  2. @Juju - Oh, you will looove it. I know a huge number of fans - who are not parents - who have been obsessed with Wonder, but I do think that being a mom made it extra special. Not just b/c I imagined my son in Auggie's place, but more so b/c I kept trying to figure out how to raise Linc to become as kind and confident as Summer and Jack!

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  3. I overlooked this one too in fear of it being depressing, but I'm not going to skip over this one again. I love that it's told in multiple POVs and that it's not just about Auggie's face, but how people treat one another. I love how it touches upon living life with a sense of humor and empathy, two very important things to have in life. Thanks for the awesome review, Katie! Definitely going to read this one now! :D

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  4. LOVED Wonder! I'm so glad you liked it. And I have a whole group of 5th grade boys super excited to read it, thanks to some awesome teacher endorsements of the book. This is a story that should be taught in the classroom someday!

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  5. @Katie - Yes! Read it! It's totally not depressing at all!!!

    @Mary - Oh my gosh, I would LOVE to read Wonder with a group of boys. I feel like they are SUCH a target audience for this book! It absolutely needs to be taught in the classroom. Or in the school library :)

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Reading your comments is one of my favorite parts of Book Love! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions.

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