At the end of Wonder, Mr. Tushman, Director of Beecher Prep School, addresses the 5th grade/6th grade classes with a quote from J. M. Barrie’s The Little White Bird: “Shall we make a new rule of life…always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” That is the theme of this gem of a book by R. J. Palacio.
August Pullman was born with a variety of significant facial deformaties. Home schooled until age 10, his parents feel it’s time for him to go to a real school and learn to get along in the real world. It is probably the most difficult thing Auggie will have to do.
To ease the transition, Mr. Tushman asks three students to give Auggie a tour of the school prior to its start and to befriend him during the school year. The befriending part works with only a modicum of success. Julian, one of the students, makes no effort and outwardly mocks August.
At the same time, Summer, not one of the three chosen students, befriends Agusut on the first day of school, a total act of kindness.
Wonder is told from several points of view including: August’s; Via, August’s older sister by four years who has grown up knowing that August comes first and she comes second; Summer; and Jack, one of the chosen three students who likes August but bows to peer pressure to unfriend the ‘freak’.
Palacio takes August from the beginning of the school year to the end, recounting both the good and the bad…how students can be both kind and terribly unkind to those who are different. She touches on, but doesn’t dwell on, the fact that many of these behaviors are learned from parents.
Wonder is easy to read and absorbing. I couldn’t put it down. The characters are wonderful, each in his/her own way. It is realistic in every way. While it is geared for children ages 8-12, teens and adults will enjoy it and learn from it. It, hopefully, will make readers examine their own lives and feelings and actions. It is a powerful book in its own, quiet way. I must admit, the ending brought a tear to my eye.
The friend who loaned me the book said she thought it would be a Newbury contender and I tend to agree. Due out today, it should be on the top of your reading pile.