Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wonder

"When given the choice between being right and being kind,
choose kind."  -Dr. Wayne Dyer

That quote is the theme running through the book, Wonder, by RJ Palacio, and is introduced to us by August's new teacher in school. I hope you took the time to read this moving piece of literature. It's a book that will make you take time to look at how you treat others, even when their differences aren't quite as glaring as her character, August Pullman.
 
August is an ordinary kid. He likes video games and hanging out with his friends. Inside, he is ordinary. Most of the time, he feels ordinary. But on the first glance, August isn't ordinary. He was born with a facial deformity. It may be described as grotesque; his skin looks as though it might have been melted like candle wax and he doesn't have outer ears. Because of this, he has had many major surgeries to help reconstruct some of the major issues. His parents thought it best to home school him so he would be able to have the recovery time he needed between surgeries without falling behind in his classes.
 
But now, August is 10 years old. His parents have decided that 5th grade is the time to start going to school. His parents enroll him at Beecher Prep, a private school in their neighborhood. August has seen the school, but he's still reasonably nervous. He takes an early tour of the school, guided by three students who will be in his home room class. He's not sure what to expect. Julian shows a nice face to the principal, but when the kids are alone, he acts like a jerk.  ____ is nice enough, but doesn't seem like she'll go out of her way to be friends with August. Jack Will, the third student, decides to take on this friendship, and since August and Jack are in several classes together, that makes it easier for them to get to know each other.
 
Palacio has taken the story and given us the voices of many of her characters. Rather than telling it in omniscient voice, knowing all thoughts and movements of each character, she has selected several characters that further August's story, and has given them each their own chapter, written in first person. I enjoyed this writing style because we could see the motivations behind some of the pivotal events in the story.
 
It may have surprised you that Julian does not have his own chapter. Palacio has said that she couldn't give a bully a platform or a chance to justify his dislike. I agree with this, because there is already enough hate and anger coming from Julian without allowing us to hear all the motivation behind his poisonous attitude.
 
One of the best chapters is Jack Will's chapter. He is a boy who was asked to do a favor for a stranger. This isn't an easy favor. The person he has to help is easily mocked, and people are afraid. I am glad we got to see the Jack work his way through the why behind his behavior. Why did he choose to help August? Why did he say mean things on Halloween when he didn't know August could hear him? Why did it hurt when August refused to talk to him? Why did he seek to regain that friendship?
 
I think we all have treated someone in an unkind manner. Jack was tired of being outcasted for making friends with someone who is different. But when he discovered how badly his words hurt, he realized that a friendship with someone like Julian is not worth the heartache it caused the friend who has always been genuine.
 
If you haven't already, read Wonder. Share it with your kids and then go explore R.J. Palacio's website about the book. You will be glad you did.
 
 

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Pick me! Pick me! I read the book!

OK. I didn't really read it. I bought the audio book and both LadyBug and I listened to it and loved it. I know it's not the same as reading the book, but I thought it was great! I thought it was very clever of Ms. Palacio to use the first person voice, but tell the story from several different characters' perspectives. I loved how eventually everyone at Beecher Prep (except for Julian) learned to accept Auggie as a just a regular kid at their school.

A couple of my favorite things were "the Emperor's Guard" and the statement by August at the beginning and end that everyone deserves to have a standing ovation once in their life.

Fun pick! Thanks for sharing.

xo -E