Book Review: Wonder

            Wonder by R. J. Palacio is the kind of book that from the first page, made me tilt my head to the side and raise my eyebrows.  That is code for, “Huh.  I’m interested.”  By the end of the first chapter, I was already invested in the main character, August “Auggie” Pullman, and anticipated being mad at his enemies and cheering his victories as I read on. 
            Auggie was born with a host of facial anomalies, making his appearance exceedingly unusual.  In his words: “Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” As a speech pathologist, I’ve had some exposure to children with facial anomalies.  I really applaud the way Ms. Palacio dealt with the description of Auggie’s facial features.  She realistically portrays the struggles of what this kind of genetic snafu would entail, including surgeries and difficulties with basic things like eating. Throughout the story, she intermittently gives us bits and pieces of details, like stolen glances, so that by the end of the book, we have a pretty good idea of what Auggie looks like, without ever having to stare him in the face, which he would hate.
            We meet Auggie as he is about to enter 5th grade, his first time going to school with other children.  From there, the author creates a well fleshed-out microcosm of society.  We feel his parent’s anxiety tenderly, and his sister’s protectiveness fiercely.  As new kids enter his world, you will find yourself thinking, “which kind of kid would I, or my kids, be?”  You will hope you’d be like his non-judgmental friend Summer, but if you’re being truthful, you’ll wonder if you’d be more like Jack – friends to his face, but denying him behind his back, or Julian – downright unaccepting.
            The teachers in the story can be a bit preachy at times, and adult readers may feel like they are being force-fed the story’s morals.  However, I happen to appreciate teachers who weave character education into their lessons, and find myself force-feeding morals to my own kids from time to time.  For the intended audience of a middle grade novel, it works.
             This story is a must read for kids in today’s society.  We have had amazing breakthroughs in medical technology, and more and more children with differences are surviving and thriving.  We want these kids to know that while it might take us a moment to get to know them, we value them and want them in our lives.  We want our ‘typically developing’ kids to understand that we all have differences, we all have struggles, and people should be accepted for who they are, and the gifts they have to share.  This book will help with that important work. 
                I highly recommend this book.  I hope you will read it and enjoy, then pass it along and share the message.  Wonder, and August Pullman, will be with you for a long time.  

To purchase:

Also, check out the book trailer on You Tube, keywords  RJ Palacio Wonder

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