Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Unlimited Wonder

Auggie Pullman is one of those characters who will whisper in your ear long after you’ve turned the last page.

WONDER by R. J. Palacio, Thorndike Press, 2012

The first time I read this novel, I thought everyone should read it: teens, tweens, parents, youth group leaders, middle school teachers.  Why? This book enlightens and empowers any reader who has trouble figuring out who he or she is and where (and when) that person will ever fit in. (Isn’t that everybody?)

For those who think fitting in is a middle school dilemma, I’m sorry to break this news to you, but for many, the fitting in part never really ends. Adults just disguise it better behind these words they say so often they don’t hear themselves, “What will people think?”  It takes a lot of living--or a lot of courage-- to say, “I don’t care!”

The story of Auggie’s fifth grade experiences are told from the point of view of his older sister and her boyfriend, one of her closest friends, two of Auggie’s new friends, and Auggie himself  who offers beginning, middle, and end commentary. If you are one of the lucky ones who read this novel when it first came out, you may want to read it again to prepare for the next novel.

If you haven’t read it, you are also lucky because the author has added another book to explore the wonder Auggie inspires.  The second one reveals the background of three not so likeable characters from the first book. Why were they mean or uncaring or just plain bullies?  Lucky you can read both books without waiting to find out!

AUGGIE & ME, three wonder stories, by R. J. Palacio, Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

A cast of three  characters tells the story in the same style as Wonder:

Julien, chosen to be on the welcome committee in Wonder when Auggie Pullman, homeschooled until the end of 4th grade, decides to attend Beecher Prep. In the first book, the reader will be confounded by Julien's actions and wonder why he is the way he is.

Charlotte, also chosen to be a welcome buddy by a well meaning  principal, wore the role uncomfortably, but served the purpose. Many will identify with her struggle to be the “good girl.”

Christopher, Auggie’s early childhood friend who moved away. The timing was good for Christopher. He had just begun to feel uncomfortable in public when his friend Auggie received weird looks. These friends experience two kinds of separation, distance and their own personal change.  

Do you get the feeling I’m tiptoeing around something here? Why would the principal feel the need to appoint welcome buddies for Auggie in the first place? Aren’t many students faced with being “the new kid” every year? Well, Auggie gives new meaning to the stiff and solemn adult advice to face down the enemy. August Pullman is very different from the usual “new kid.” Born with a facial deformity that is startling, frightening to some, and bound to attract bullies, Auggie manages to grow beautiful on the inside while his outside disfigurement causes social chaos for children and adults.
In spite of the meanness, Auggie triumphs. The wonder of his story is that others grow, too. Author Palacio and Auggie’s fans will introduce you to the power of kindness here.

Lucky you!

Hillview School Library