Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Wonder


Wonder is counted among the best novels I've ever read, not just the best middle-grade novels. This story is original, relevant, and gracefully told in a way that it transcends genre. I would, of course, recommend it for middle-grade students. I especially recommend it for teenagers. But I also recommend it for adults even if you ordinarily hate middle-grade novels. Try this one. My own children were so engrossed that we read the entire book aloud over 5 days during the summer. They never wanted me to put it down!

"I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks." ~ Auggie Pullman

August (Auggie) Pullman is born with facial deformities, among other problems, requiring him to have multiple surgeries as a young child and resulting in his being homeschooled for many years because of the numerous medical procedures and others reactions to his looks. At the beginning of Wonder, he is encouraged by his parents to try a brick-and-mortar school. As he eventually decides to give school a chance, the predictable varied development of relationships with classmates ensues. Wonder is told from several different points-of view, and the struggles of each character are thoughtfully and carefully refined.

What I did not expect from this novel was the sense of empathy invoked. I'm not easily given to strong emotions, but I found myself nearly in tears many times. Not just because of how a 5th grader with facial deformities is treated, but because of how Auggie's interests, thoughts, feelings, desires, and ambitions are truly like my own children's. I could see them in his voice and could hardly bear the thought that some unkind soul could possibly treat them the way Auggie was often treated. With so much talk of bullying in schools today, this is an invaluable resource to teach kindness and compassion for everyone.

**An excellent interview with the author is available on NPR's website.

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