Once in a while a book comes along that isn’t just good, isn’t just entertaining, isn’t just thought-provoking.
Wonder is that book.
That is why I had to go buy my own personal copy.
That is why, no matter how long it takes to finish, I am starting it as a read-aloud today.
Wonder should be required reading for every human.
August (Auggie) Pullman has a genetic condition, a gene mutation, that “made war on his face”. Because of this, his life is different than that of other kids his age. The narration in the trailer above is the first couple paragraphs of the book. The first section ends with:
My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
Wonder is told primarily from Auggie’s point of view, but other characters get turns at moving the story along. Eye-opening accounts are given by his sister Via, his new school acquaintances Jack and Summer, and Via’s boyfriend Justin.
Will Auggie fit in at his new school–the first school experience of his life? How will the other kids–and teachers–respond to this kid who is so different from others around him? How will Auggie show those around him he’s really not that different?
More than anything, I read this book through the lens of my past experiences. I wish I could say I have never made fun of another person; that I never eyed up someone who looked different–but I have.
I wish I could say that I was always kind to others; that I went out of my way to welcome and embrace those who are different, whether it be inside or out–but I haven’t. And that shames me.
Wonder reminded me of every social error I made. It reminded me of the times I prejudged, of the times when I saw a weakness and exposed it instead caring for it. I suppose as a teacher I’m not supposed to let on that I ever acted that way. But the truth is I made mistakes. As Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones says in Langston Hughes’ “Thank You, M’am”:
“I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know.”
Now I’m more determined to make up for that lack of judgement and character.
A number of years ago I was remembering a 6th grade experience. I was unkind to a kid a year younger than me–a kid who had trouble fitting in. I felt terrible about it all those years later, and I said, “Lord, if I ever see ‘Charles’ again, I’ll apologize and set things right.” Who did I see just a week later? Charles was standing outside of the coffee shop as I went in. He seemed happy to see me. We shook hands and caught up.
Then I took a deep breath. “Charles, I know there were times I wasn’t very nice to you. I picked on you instead of…”
“No, no,” he said. “That was a long time ago. Don’t mention it.”
“I know it was, but you were on my mind the other day and I knew I needed to apologize to you if I ever got the chance. I’m sorry I wasn’t nicer.”
He brushed it off, but I could see in his eyes he appreciated it.
I felt relieved, for sure.
Reading Wonder, I am aggravated, maddened, and saddened by the people who treat Auggie so poorly. But that aggravation is aimed right back at me. Would I have been any better were an Auggie at my school? Would I have seen past? Would I have looked deeper? I don’t want to answer that.
And that is why I think it is so important to read this book. Wonder gives us a chance to see deeper and to look closer. Perhaps once we’re friends with August, we will be more willing to embrace others who don’t fit our vision of beautiful or cool.
The title of the book comes from the author’s favorite song:
Doctors have come from distant cities
just to see me
stand over my bed
disbelieving what they’re seeing
They say I must be one of the wonders
of God’s own creation
and as far as they see they can offer
NATALIE MERCHANT, “Wonder”
We are all wonders of God’s creation. May we work harder at living that way. At accepting others that way. At accepting ourselves that way.
Below are a bunch of cool links n’ videos n’ stuff. Click to your heart’s content.
Colby Sharp’s interview with R.J. Palacio.
R.J. Palacio’s post on the Nerdy Book Club Blog (about Mr. Browne’s precepts).
R.J. Palacio’s blog–where you can find the playlist of the songs she references in her book and Mr. Browne’s Precepts. Worth a look.
Another teacher, Brian Wilhorn, is reading aloud Wonder. He is putting together information on his blog to help his students understand some of the cultural references. This is quite impressive and I recommend you take a look:
My colleague, Brent Peterson, also blogged his thoughts on Wonder.
….And if you would forgive me one shameless moment of pride, R.J. Palacio actually mentioned me in her “Thank You” post. Halfway down it says:
Thank you amazing teachers and librarians who have such a passion for bringing books to your kids.
Thank you Kim Harte, Adriane White, Kelly Butcher, Rebecca Butcher, Tracy Wymer, KateR2R, Lidnsay Healey, Sharon Goodwin, Mummy Barrow, Kate Conley, Zac Harding, Tim Oneill, Mike Winchell, Matt Imrie, Katherin Sokolowsky, David Etkin, Gae Polisher, Sabrina YABliss, Nicole LeFreniere, Mike Hutchinson.
Thank you everyone who has blogged about WONDER….
I was reading it in bed when I saw that and almost dropped my iPad on my head. Unreal.
Just for fun, I’ll include a couple songs that were important to the book.
[I don’t know what the visuals are on this video, but it’s nice to see the lyrics]
A new cool trailer made by a librarian: