I just finished Wonder by RJ Palacio. Maybe I should say, I just finished sobbing through the ending of Wonder. My kids know it’s not the tragic things that make me cry. It’s the sentimental ones. And this book certainly knows how to tug on your heartstrings.
In case you haven’t heard the premise of Wonder, here it is in a nutshell. August is a fifth-grader who has a combination of birth defects that left him with a dramatic facial deformity. Because of his health and the need for multiple surgeries, he has been homeschooled and largely sheltered from the world’s prying eyes until now. August is entering a traditional school for the first time.
Kids can be so cruel. As you might guess, a large part of the story deals with other kid’s reactions to August. Some kids are mean on purpose, others hurt him without meaning to. Most of the book is told from August’s perspective, but several chapters branch into the perspectives of other characters including his sister and friends.
The theme of Wonder is simply “choose kind.” Everyone in this story has a chance to choose kind, even August, and by the end, many of them do.
Books that pull kids from their own perspective to look through the eyes of someone else are tremendously important. They are especially important when that perspective is someone they may have been tempted to otherwise mistreat, make fun of, or ignore.
Because this is such a serious topic, there are a few things you should be aware of as a parent. There is a lot of bullying in this book, primarily emotional but some physical as well. August even overhears one kid saying he would kill himself if his face looked that way. Becuase of this, I’d say this book is most appropriate for ages 9 – 12.
My only other issue was the overuse of the word fart in one of the first chapters. It was meant to add humor to a serious scene, but it was a bit of a turn off to me. However, it doesn’t continue throughout the book, so I hope it’s not something that keeps you from reading it. Parents may also want to be aware of a few other items like a girl talking about being flat-chested, August’s sister kissing her boyfriend, and his mom saying “oh my God” several times when excited about her daughter’s performance.
There are also some beautiful references to scripture and God that are thought-provoking. While not written from a Christian perspective, I appreciated these tokens while reading.
By the way, Wonder is being made into a movie is scheduled to come out April of 2017.
What is your favorite book that teaches kids compassion?