Review of ‘Wonder’
Author: R. J. Palacio
Publisher: Random House
Age Range: Upper primary – Adult (parents/guardians/teachers please be aware of subject matter and decide on age appropriateness for your child)
Themes: difference, friendship, family, schools, resilience, acceptance, perserverance, courage and KINDNESS. Always kindness.
Click on title links or cover image to purchase.
August ‘Auggie’ Pullman is 10 years old and has so far endured 27 surgeries to correct facial anomalies, the result of two different syndromes crashing together to create the face that Auggie lives with. In the words of the author, ‘Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse’.
Auggie always notes the split second of shock when people see him for the first time and try to act normal. Even people who have been ‘prepped’ for his appearance, cannot hide their shock. He has watched as children in the playground scream and run, he has had peers not want to touch him or anything he has touched and he has heard every cruel name and taunt known to man.
Tough subject matter? For sure. Whilst ‘Wonder’ should indeed be read with a box of tissues close by, the tears will often be tears of joy and not of despair. ‘Wonder’ is ultimately a story of kindness, courage, resilience…and wonder.
For me one of the strongest points of the novel is the eight different viewpoints from which Auggie’s story is told. Anyone who has loved a child who is different from ‘the norm’ (whatever that is) will know that difference affects not just the child, but all those around them. Auggie’s first person narrative is the strongest voice in ‘Wonder’, but the voices of family members, teachers and classmates are also heard, and they help to form the complete picture.
Aside from Auggie, who of course you will adore, my favourite character was the school principal. School principals often get a raw deal in literature, but in ‘Wonder’ this man is a hero. He is kind, insightful, courageous, a true leader and his speech at the awards night…well, it’s a tissue moment.
I don’t normally attempt to read books ‘for me’ whilst the two small ferals are awake. But I was unable to put ‘Wonder’ down and kept running away and hiding and reading. PudStar was terribly helpful in handing tissues to me as needed, but she did comment – ‘well this does not seem like a very good book’. I’ll read it to her when she is older and we can tear up together.
My dear friend and former National President of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Marj Osborne, summed up ‘Wonder’ perfectly:
Every so often a book comes along which is special. For me ‘Wonder’ is that book.
Wonder reminds us of some of the best reasons to read fiction: to put ourselves into others’ shoes, to laugh and cry at the human condition, to value the things that really count, to escape from our narrow visioned prejudices and mediocrity, to be more human! Bravo Ms Palacio! This story truly is a wonder!
Read about what inspired R.J. Palacio to write ‘Wonder’ here.
The book trailer is here:
“They say I must be one of the wonders
Of god’s own creation
And as far as they can see they can offer
‘Wonder’ a song composed by Natalia Merchant