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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Wonder, written by R. J. Palacio. Knopf, Randon House. 2012. $17.99 ages 10 and up

"“Who we are,” he said, underlining each word as he said it. “Who we are! Us! Right? What kind of people are we? What kind of person are you? Isn’t that the most important thing of all? Isn’t that the kind of question we should be asking ourselves all the time? ‘What kind of person am I?’"

How lucky am I that I keep reading books that yell to be shared? After reading The One and Only Ivan, and fervently wishing that there was a classroom somewhere that I could share it with, Wonder rises to the top of my TBR pile! It is a book that packs a powerful punch and should be read in every fifth grade classroom...and don't stop there. It is a story that should be read and savored by anyone who loves books that will impact the way we live our lives. It is a 'wonder'!

It is August (Auggie) Pullman's story and is brilliantly told. Auggie was born with mandibulofacial dysostosis, a hereditary condition that causes numerous facial defects. He has had many surgeries, been home schooled, and is now entering public school for the first time. He is in fifth grade. That in itself is daunting. Auggie is constantly aware of the reactions of others when they first see him. He has become accustomed to it, which is quite different that being able to understand or harden himself to it.
Making the decision to enrol Auggie has been harrowing for his parents and worrisome for the whole family. The year is difficult but has some amazing and heartwarming moments. The reactions are varied, as should be expected. Readers will find themselves knowing Auggie well and rooting for him. His neighborhood is a safe haven for him. Auggie knows everyone and they all know him. School is a different kettle of, he knows no one and can only anticipate some of the reaction that his attendance will cause. Still, he faces each day with courage and even humor as his rocky year moves forward. He has an obsession with Star Wars and describes himself in terms of it:

 "Like, it's okay, I know I'm weird looking, take a look, I don't bite. Hey, the truth is, if a Wookie started going to school, I'd probably stare a bit!"

Auggie's voice is compelling, honest and ordinary. He deals with all things fifth grade. He is brave (he has to be given all the surgeries he has faced and the everyday difficulties of eating, hearing and being different), he is funny (luckily) and full of resolve. He is a character to be admired and emulated.

The kids in his school are like all kids in schools everywhere. They have had little experience with a kid like Auggie. They snicker, they point, they ostracize and they show fear. They say mean things when no one is listening, they feel embarrassed by their reactions, and many learn to be better people through understanding and empathy.

Olivia, his older sister, is in grade nine and has her own take on life with Auggie. While she loves him unconditionally, she wants her life in high school uncomplicated by her classmates knowing about her brother. She tells her story with honesty, with compassion and with guilt for self concern. She only made me love her more for voicing some of the frustrations she deals with in having a loved brother who faces great difficulty in life.

Now, get out there and get a copy for yourself, your child, your child's classroom or school library. You will NEVER forget August Pullman, and you won't want to either!

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