Wonder: Humorous children’s book about acceptance, kindness

Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger talks about the book Wonder in this week’s Friday reads. Scheerger is the author of The Opposite of Love (hardcover 2014; paperback Fall 2015), and Are You Still There? (Fall 2015).









Why is R.J. Palacio’s Wonder so wonderful?

“Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?” –Goodreads.com

I know why I think so. The heartbreakingly real characters, true to life. The careful introduction of issues that make us think and feel. The quick moving plot. Boy appeal. Humor that makes me smile while reading. The beginning hooks the readers right away. The authentic character voices that speak in real and meaningful ways.

Pg. 3 “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

Her succinct and accurate portrayal of character.

Page 34 “…so is he the kind of kid who’s one way in front of grown-ups and another way in front of kids?”

I think the sense of humor intertwined with real issues is part of what makes this so enjoyable. Consider these sections:

Page 64

“Are you always going to look this way, August? I mean, can’t you get plastic surgery or something?”

I smiled and pointed to my face. “Hello? This is after plastic surgery!”

Jack clapped his hand over his forehead and started laughing hysterically.

“Dude, you should sue your doctor!” he answered between giggles.

The cover is tasteful, appealing, and intriguing. Palacio changes POV, so that we hear multiple perspectives in ways that slightly overlap but still push the story forward. We have empathy for the ways people act, and we understand their motivations.


Of course there’s a clear hook for upper elementary and middle school teachers. What a great way to spark discussion about friendship, acceptance, differences, school culture, bullying and kindness.

As a school social worker, I have the pleasure of visiting many elementary and middle school classes. It’s a breath of fresh air when I walk into a classroom and see that each student has created their own one-eyed “wonder-esque” face to post around the room. Think of the classroom discussions that can ensue after reading aloud Mr. Tushman’s end of the year speech about being “kinder than necessary.” Mr. Browne’s precepts are another great source of discussion material.

But what do kids think? Why do they love it? I’ll confess that my eleven-year-old has read and re-read this book five times. He’s a kid who typically gravitates to fantasy, action, or sci-fi. Realistic fiction isn’t his cup of tea, unless it’s historically based. But the characters in Wonder grabbed hold of his heart and head, wouldn’t let go.

I asked him this question—“Why is Wonder worth reading?”

All of his comments referenced the feelings invoked within himself as he connected with these masterful characters. He said,“I felt sympathetic for Auggie. I could imagine how Jack Will felt when he accidentally hurt his friend’s feelings. I felt a proud feeling when the kids from his school protected Auggie during the movie.”

Then I asked, “Why is Wonder worth re-reading?”

He smiled, and said, “Just… the book is so… amazing.”

Or shall I say Wonder-ful?

Wonder: Humorous children’s book about acceptance, kindness

No Name Calling Week: Battle Bullying with Books

We were very pleased to co-sponsor yesterday’s Booklist Webinar for No Name Calling Week entitled Battle Bullying with Books. Along with Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Rosen Digital Publishing, Candlewick Press, and GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network), we presented information about books and other resources teachers and librarians (and parents and other educators) can use to help kids and prevent bullying. There were nearly 800 people watching live and over 2000 people registered, so all of the presenters were quite excited.

So what, you might wonder, are the steps for sponsoring and presenting such a webinar. I can’t speak for any of the others, but here’s what I did:

1. Get call from Booklist asking us to sponsor.
2. Say yes.
3. Put it on my schedule and then forget about it for months.
4. Get reminder e-mail from editor re: PowerPoint.
5. Get second reminder e-mail from editor–after the due date.
6. Panic briefly.
7. Create beautiful PowerPoint in two hours.
8. Write date of practive webinar in three difference calendars and on a post-it on monitor.
9. Particpate in practice “tech” webinar — find out that our logo looks green on a Mac.
10. Panic briefly.
11. Booklist fixes problem.  Thanks!
12. Re-read and review script for presentation.
13. Realize one book is not actually about bullying.
14. Panic briefly.
15. Booklist can remove the lovely, but not-about-bullying title from the presentation. Thanks!
16. Wake up nervous on the day.
17. All presentations go nicely.
18. Find it difficult to ignore the Q&A section filled with technical questions.
18. Presentation over!
19. Await final registration list so I can send a fabulous discount e-blast.

No Name Calling Week: Battle Bullying with Books

Friday topic: Dori Hillestad Butler on Bullying

By Dori Hillestad Butler

A few years ago, I wrote The Truth About Truman School, a novel that deals with cyberbullying. In the book, a girl named Lilly Clarke is harassed online—on a website the whole school reads, an anonymous classmate posts photos and accuses her of being gay.

She starts to avoid school, and then one day, she disappears altogether.  The book is also the story of her classmates who witness the bullying and don’t know how to respond.

You may have heard that it’s Bullying Prevention Week—or Month. This year the National Center for Bullying Prevention has expanded the event to cover the whole month of October.

It’s a strangely timely decision, considering all the recent stories about bullying-related tragedies.  Special reports on bullying are appearing on the websites for CNN.com, Cartoon Network and People magazine this week.  Some of the stories will break your heart. You wonder what you can do—if you can do anything at all.

I want to tell you about a school visit I did last spring. I spoke to 4th and 5th graders, and after one of my presentations, this girl came up to me. She waited until all the other kids were lining up to go back to their classrooms and I was getting set up for the next presentation. She said, “Can I tell you something?”

I said, “Sure.”

She looked around, then leaned in close and whispered, “I’m being cyberbullied.”

At first I just stood there. I expected her teacher to call her over any second. But when that didn’t happen, I said, “do you want to tell me about it?”

Her eyes filled with tears. Then she said, “my friend is spreading rumors about me. She has a website and she uses it to write mean things about people, just like in your book. Now no one will talk to me. Everyone in this whole school hates me.”

She told me she and that girl had been friends since they were four. Their moms were friends, too. But now because the girls weren’t getting along, neither were the moms.

I ached for this girl.

I wondered whether she had told anyone at school about what was happening. Her teacher? A counselor? She said, “they won’t do anything because my friend’s mom helps at school a lot.”

I found it interesting that this girl kept referring to the other girl as her “friend.” She didn’t sound like much of a friend to me. She sounded like a manipulative little—okay, I probably shouldn’t say that when I’m a guest on my publisher’s blog.

I asked her whether it would be okay if I told her librarian what she’d just told me.

She wiped her eyes and said, “Just forget it. It doesn’t matter. Nobody ever does anything anyway.” Then she ran off to join her class.

I did say something to that librarian. All I could do was describe the girl since I didn’t get her name. But the librarian thought she knew who I was talking about. She said “That girl has quite an imagination. I’m sure she read your book and made up that story just so she’d have something to say to you. I don’t believe any of it is true.”

I was stunned. Those tears weren’t real?

Of course the librarian knows the girl and I don’t. She could be absolutely right.

But what if she was wrong?

It’s hard to believe some kids are bullies, but sometimes it’s hard to know when a kid is a victim, too. Which is all the more reason why it’s important to take bullying seriously—in every instance.

Yes—it would’ve bothered me to find out the girl was playing me. But it would bother me a lot more to see this girl’s picture in the news.

I hope it never comes to that.

Dori Hillestad Butler began her career writing for magazines such as Cricket, Spider, Highlights for Children, Children’s Digest, and Child Life. Since then, she’s published numerous picture books and novels for children, including ghostwriting several Boxcar Children© Mysteries. Her latest novels are the first three in a new early chapter book series entitled The Buddy Files, featuring a dog detective who also becomes a therapy dog. That Buddy is a therapy dog is not a coincidence. She and her dog Mouse are a registered Pet Partner team through Delta Society and we enjoy reading with kids. Dori lives in Coralville, Iowa.

For additional bullying books from Albert Whitman & Company, please check out our website.

Friday topic: Dori Hillestad Butler on Bullying

AWC Podcast Series: Bullying and Me Schoolyard Stories

It is that time of year again.  Characterized by those three little words that bring so much anticipation on the parts of parents and schoolchildren.  Back. To. School.

As another school year begins, we think it is important to address the growing issue of bullying.  And so, today we are talking with author Ouisie Shapiro and photographer Steven Vote of Bullying and Me: Schoolyard Stories.  This nonfiction book tells the  real-life stories of elementary and middle school children who have been bullied or were once a bully themselves.  The poignant narratives illustrate the negative effects of bullying another child as well as what kids, parents, and educators can do to stop the cycle.  Click below to listen to Ouisie and Steven discuss their experiences interviewing students, their own experiences with bullying, and their plans for extending this theme in future projects. (RT: 8:58)

Ouisie Shapiro is the author, most recently, of Bulling and Me: Schoolyard Stories. Her first book with Albert Whitman, Autism & Me: Sibling Stories, was published in 2009. Ouisie is also co-author of Batter Up: Baseball Activities for Kids of all Ages. In addition to books, Ouisie has been writing for television for many years and has won three Emmy awards for documentaries on sports figures.

Steven Vote is an award-winning Australian photographer and filmmaker who divides his time between New York City and Western Massachusetts. In addition to his acclaimed work in advertising, editorial, corporate and travel photography; Steven has a special interest in telling visual stories – photographing his subjects in their world. His work has been featured in American Photo, PDN, Popular Photography, Applied Arts and singled out by Graphis Photo Annual for exceptional imagery.

For more information and resources on dealing with bullying, check out:

http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/ –  Health and Human Services
http://kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/bullying/bullies.html – Teen Health
http://aacap.org/page.ww?name=Bullying&section=Facts+for+Families – American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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AWC Podcast Series: Bullying and Me Schoolyard Stories