Thursday, November 6, 2014

Wonder - R J Palacio

My reading group has been trying to get to discussing this book for months.  One of our members, a former grade school teacher recommended it.  It's a young adult title, aimed at nine to twelve year-olds.

The book is the story of the 5th grade year of school for August, known as Auggie, a boy with a cranial facial disfiguration that makes his first year of school after being home-schooled a frightening new experience.  The story is told in first person by several narrators; Auggie, his friends, sister, Via and schoolmates.  The voices sounded to me like genuine 5th graders, entering the first year of middle school on the brink of their teenage years.

We're introduced to Auggie's perspective first; he sees himself as "just an ordinary kid".  He recognizes that others react in shock, surprise and fear when first seeing his face yet because of the love of his parents and sister he has the strength of character to take it in stride.  His experience in middle school though is still full the the angst of acceptance, fitting in, and finding out who he is.

An example of his mother's love::

Auggie: "Do people look the same when they get to heaven?
Mom: I don't know, I don't think so.
Auggie" Then how do people recognize each other?
:Mom:  I don't know sweetie.  They just feel it. You don't need your eyes to love, right?  You just feel it inside you.  That's how it is in heaven.  It's just love and no one forgets who they love.

Auggie on recognition:
"I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives"

His school principal on kindness:
"Because it's not enough to be kind.  One should be kinder than needed....we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind but the very choice of kindness."

I felt the book gave me a peek into the lives of these children and the adults who work with them as they learn and grow.  I loved how the English teacher assigned a precept each month (and how I learned what the term meant) and then how he asked his students after they graduated to send him their personal precepts.  One of them is my favorite from John Wesley, founder of Methodism:

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.

The struggle of Auggie to be accepted is universal.  His difference is apparent, yet all of us feel and struggle with being different in some way.  Highly recommended.

Published:  2012  Read: November 2014  Genre: Young Adult

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