Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wonder by R. J. Palacio


I read this book after seeing a full page ad for it in The New York Times Book Review and looking at the corresponding book trailer on YouTube. The main character, 10 year old August Pullman, is born with a facial deformity that makes people look away in horror and keeps him out of public schools until the beginning of 5th grade, when the book begins. He opens the narration of the book and says, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” His parents decide he is ready to face the stresses of Beecher Prep School. His entrance into the mainstream is supposed to be softened by his introduction to Jack, Julian and Charlotte, young “leaders” chosen by the principal to show Auggie around the school before the year begins. Of course, children don’t become friends simply because adults want them to, and kids are cruel – a lesson Auggie must learn time and time again. Wonder has won many “best book” accolades and been described as one that will make children and adults treat others better. I loved Auggie and wanted to cheer him on in the truthful, sad sections of the book that he narrates. I thought the narrative structure was weakened by the alternative voices used by the author – various friends, and Auggie’s sister, Olivia. I felt these other narrators did little more than re-narrate the same events rather than advancing the plot. But there are so many other positives about the book, one of which is the Choose Kind pledge on a Tumblr site advocating the book’s anti-bullying mission. Also, I really loved the Precepts used by one of the teachers to frame his instruction for the year -
“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” —Dr. Wayne Dyer
“Your deeds are your monuments.” —Inscription on ancient Egyptian tomb
“Have no friends not equal to yourself.” —Confucius
“Fortune favors the bold.” —Virgil
“No man is an island, entire of itself.” —John Donne
“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” —James Thurber
“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” —Blaise Pascal
“What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.” —Sappho
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” —John Wesley
“Just follow the day and reach for the sun.” —The Polyphonic Spree
“Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world.” —Auggie Pullman

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