Jan 2, 2013

Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
February 14th, 2012 from Knopf Books For Young Readers

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

I've heard a lot of buzz about this book from librarians and book lovers. Some even say that it will be on a lot of awards lists, and lo and behold, it's starting to look that way. Your heart just leaks love for Auggie. He was born with a deformity and you know his life isn't peaches and ice cream. It's easy to cheer him on as he braves school for the first time as a 5th grader. Predictably, Auggie meets some not so nice kids and while you want to wring their necks for the things they say, you hope that there will be some sort of learning experience in all this. Luckily, not all of Auggie's new classmates are meanies. There are a few bright gems and the whole time I was thinking that I hope to gosh that my kids would like them. They didn't fall in line with the others when they would pretend Auggie had "the plague." It was sad to read when the kids were mean to Auggie, but when the parents jumped on board...I was livid! I think it's important for kids to know that grown ups make mistakes too, but some of those scenes filled with hate were difficult to read.

I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of perspectives in this story. I thought it would be about Auggie and Auggie alone. We get to peek inside the mind of Auggie's adoring sister, Auggie's friends from school and in the end we hear from 6 voices. Pretty daring for a middle grade novel! Personally, I enjoyed this aspect of the story. I did not care for Auggie's voice read by Diana Steele. It was a voice that just grated on my nerves and was painful. Diana read for other characters and I really enjoyed those a lot. There was just something about that 10-year old voice that I couldn't get past. I choose to read the book version for Auggie's parts.

That aside, this book is so full of heart! With the multiple points of view, I can see this being a great read-aloud for classrooms. This book should start conversations with young readers. What would you do if you were in Auggie's shoes? How can you make a difference in someone's life? Auggie's story can provide so many teachable moments for kids about empathy and friendship. Great librarians think alike - this will be on a lot of award lists!

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You can find Palacio at her website