“Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”
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?
Please note: This is a repeat of a guest blog I posted at Bookish yesterday – be sure to visit Evie’s amazing site for more contemporary goodness all this month!
As teachers, we are often observers in the lives our students. However much we want to have an impact on our students’ lives, it is their classmates and friends whom they will likely remember most from their school-age days. True, there are those special teachers who stand out, but they do so because they are truly exceptional in some way – good or bad – and therefore they rise above the friendships and rivalries of adolescence.
I was reminded of this position of observance while reading P.J. Palacio’s amazing novel, “Wonder”, and couldn’t help but put myself in the role of the teacher as I read Auggie’s heartbreakingly beautiful story. Told over the course of the school year and in multiple voices, “Wonder” tells us about Auggie, a boy entering Grade Five at his local public school for the first time. What sets Auggie apart from his peers is that he has been homeschooled due to a significant facial deformity; in truth, Auggie is not like the other kids in most visible ways.
What you soon learn, however, is that Auggie, his sister, his parents and his friends are unique for other reasons. Palacio’s beautiful language clearly captures the emotion felt by each character as they respond to the events in the novel. Auggie struggles to remain true to himself while trying to navigate the murky social seas of middle school. I felt for Auggie and his friend Jack as they encountered the minefield that characterizes male relationships, and appreciate the author’s use of messaging as a natural way for the boys to communicate. As Auggie’s constant friend, Summer attempts to share her determinedly positive outlook with others, while his sister Via tries to reconcile her love for her brother with her yearning to stand apart on her own. Even Via’s boyfriend has a voice in this beautiful narrative, and his thoughts are almost ee cummings-like in their sparse simplicity. I could so clearly picture these individuals in my mind, so much so that I felt that I knew them personally by the end of the book.
Life goes on in the novel, and Palacio provides the emotion and anxiety of middle and high school in her characters. The relationships within the book are honest and realistic, showing us that life isn’t easy no matter how brave a face we show to the world. Each voice is unique, but adds another layer to the story to provide us with a rich tapestry of narrative by the end. There is heartbreak along the way, as there is in life, and I shed real tears as I read this book.
“Wonder” truly lives up to its name; it is a wonder-filled book of promise and heartbreak, of growth and acceptance, and I encourage everyone to pick it up and enjoy it.
“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”
“It’s like people you see sometimes, and you can’t imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it’s somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can’t talk. Only, I know that I’m that person to other people, maybe to every single person in that whole auditorium.
To me, though, I’m just me. An ordinary kid.”