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:
“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?