I get a thrill every time I read a book that prods me to grow a bit, makes my day brighter or grants me a portal into a world different from mine. When a book does all three of those things it is a definite winner. It gets bonus point if I can share it with the young people in my life and watch it expand their horizons.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio is such a book. Since it came out in 2012, many of you have probably read it already and/or seen the movie version. I was a late-comer to the fan club since I tend towards classics, but I came across it recently and I want to share my delight.
Wonder tells the story of fifth-grader Auggie Pullman, a boy born with a severe craniofacial deformity. Because of health concerns and repeated operations he has never been to school, and now that is about to change. The book is divided into sections that tell of his entrance to school through his own eyes and then through the eyes of his “normal” sister, her boyfriend and her estranged childhood friend, as well as from the perspectives of some of Auggie’s classmates, whose behaviors range from kind to bullying.
This book is more powerful than a hundred anti-bullying slogans or lectures. Aside from humanizing a boy who looks different, it respectfully shows the challenges of children (and adults) dealing with something drastically different from what they usually meet. The various perspectives provide a tremendous opportunity to realize that others see the world differently than we do.
This book and its sequels are recommended for ages 8-12. I disagree. I would suggest ages 8 through adult. Certainly, it can be invaluable for teenagers. This would make a great book to discuss as a family, especially if parents can do more listening than talking. It is one of those books that we can only hope stays with us long after we finish reading it.