What is Wonder About: Wonder is a book that follows the main character, August Pullman, around as he experiences what public school, bullying, and making new friends is like. August acts like every other ten-year-old boy; he loves to watch television, play video games, and eat junk food, however, August has a very unique look to him.August is diagnosed with a rare medical facial deformity, which is referred to as “Mandibulofacial Dysostosis” in the book. The book goes into some detail of what August looks like, however, that’s not the focus of the book. Rather, Palacio wants you to get to know August Pullman as a person, and not as the boy with a rare facial deformity. His experience of public school is different than most, being that August doesn’t go to public school until he’s ten years old. August had undergone 27 different surgeries over the years to help with his diagnosis, consequently, he was unable to attend public school. As August approaches his 5th grade year, his surgeries have ended and his parents ask him if he is ready to try public school. August is quick to reject the idea. Obviously going into the 5th grade as the “new” kid is hard enough, can you imagine going to the 5th grade as the “new kid with the facial deformity”? This very reason is why August, and his parents, are cautious when it comes to enrolling August into public school. Ultimately, Augusts decides to go to school, with a little (or a lot) of pressure from his older sister Olivia. From then on we see what life is like for August Pullman, the regular ten-year-old boy with a very unique look. The book does not only focus on August’s point of view. Instead the point of view changes throughout the book. We get to hear Olivia’s side of the story—growing up with August as her brother. We get to see what Jack, August’s friend, goes through as he befriends the “new kid,” and we even get to read the outside point of view from Justin, Olivia’s boyfriend. I love that Palacio sets the book up like this. It’s very intriguing, and quite fun to see what the other characters are thinking and going through. By the end of the book, you will have followed August Pullman, and friends, throughout their first year of public school and discover for yourself that August Pullman is truly a Wonder.
About the Author: R.J. Palacio is a wonderful author who makes you rethink your entire life in just 372 pages; however, Palacio has not always been an author. Palacio began her career as a graphic arts designer. She has designed the covers for countless books. With every cover she designed her, desire to write a book grew exponentially. Not only is Palacio a talented writer, but she is also very relatable. In her own words, she said, “I kept waiting for the perfect time in my life to start writing a book but after more than twenty years of designing book jackets for other people, I realized that the perfect time would never present itself.” I admire Palacio as she created the “perfect time” instead of waiting for it. What a blessing to the rest of us that R.J. Palacio finally had the courage to write her own book. Without that courage we would not have Wonder. Palacio has written several other Young Adult books, however, Wonder will always be dear to my heart. I suspect it’s dear to hers as well, as it’s the book that began her writing career.
What inspired Palacio to write Wonder: There is a website all about R.J. Palacio, which you can visit here: http://rjpalacio.com/index.html . On this website R.J. Palacio talks about a not so wonderful moment she had with her 2 sons as they went out for ice cream. She talks about how she was sitting outside with her youngest, in a stroller as they waited for the older son to come out of the ice cream parlor. Her youngest son began to cry as he noticed a little girl with an extreme case of Craniofacial Difference sitting next to them (Craniofacial Difference is a type of facial deformity). She explains, “I hurriedly tried to push him away in the stroller, not for his sake but to avoid hurting the girl’s feelings.” After the fact, Palacio quickly realized that in doing so, she most likely hurt the girl’s feelings more than if they had just stayed there. Of course, like any other person she beat herself up about how she reacted in that situation; wishing she could have done it differently. As she sat in her home the song “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant came on the radio, and Palacio’s mind went straight to the ice cream parlor incident. In that moment her inspiration came rushing to her and she began writing the book, Wonder, that night. As you read the book, keep in mind this experience that Palacio had. Palacio uses her experience at the ice cream parlor in her book, and knowing that the experience was real makes the book all that more profound.
- If you have the opportunity, I’d highly recommend listening to the song Wonder and reading the lyrics. It’s a beautiful song, and clearly shows why Palacio was so inclined to write Wonder. Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQyyvOeFRFg .
Would I Recommend this Book: YES, YES, YES! I’d recommend this book to all ages. Not only is it a phenomenal book, but it’s a book that will make you rethink how you treat others. Even though this is a great book for all ages, I’d highly recommend it for children in 5th-8th grade. I remember middle school, and it was one of the worst times of my life. Kids can be especially cruel at this time as everyone figures out who they are and who they want to be. Wonder is an extremely easy read, and I believe it would be very beneficial to any child, or adult, who opens it up. Kids especially need a reminder that being kind is a choice and It’s not a hard one at that. R.J. Palacio uses this book to focus on her campaign “Choose Kind,” where she encourages kids to befriend those around them and choose to be kind. Not only would this be a great book to read, but a great way to create an atmosphere of kindness, friendship, and love in the home or in the classroom. In addition, I love that Wonder spotlights kids who are very rarely found in movies, books, or the media. Everyone deserves to feel special and have a character they can look up to. August Pullman’s story is not fiction, kids undergo the same stresses, surgeries, and bullying that August goes through. See all the different faces of August Pullman here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKDRo5DLTwQ . Don’t miss out on this book that will change your life.
- Wonder is being made into a major motion picture which will be hitting theaters on April 7, 2017! See the cast list and some on-set photos at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2543472/ .