WONDER BY R.J. PALACIO
Bibliographic Information: Palacio, R.J. (2012). Wonder. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Interest level: Grades 5-7
Reading level: Grade 5 Equivalent
When starting this book, I predicted an unhappy ending for Auggie. Because it started off so sad, I thought it was going to end with an even sadder ending. Luckily, this was not at all the case! Rather, the opposite. After Auggie overhears Jack tell Julian that he just pretends to be Auggie’s friend, I predicted that Auggie would never forgive Jack for saying that. I was very proud of Auggie and thought very highly of him for forgiving Jack and for Jack’s honesty when addressing the issue to Auggie.
Thoughts about craft
Palacio demonstrates tremendous skill in telling the inspiring story of a boy’s experiences as he goes through life with a rare medical facial deformity. Throughout the book, she also weaves the voices of various narrators into one captivating story, which also takes great skill.
Personal connections to other books or your life
For the past several months, I have spent a lot of time at a local Starbuck, where I go to complete my homework. Over time, I have noticed other regulars and have even developed friendships with some of them. Most of us sit around a large table. One of the regulars though, named Zack, who also sits at the table does not interact with the rest of us. One night I noticed a group of females sitting at the other end of the table studying. When Zack came in, he sat at a chair beside them. They all made unfriendly faces at him then at each other , and moved over to another table. I didn’t realize what the issue was. I had briefly spoken with him before, and he seemed harmless, so I didn’t get what that was about. Perhaps it’s his unfashionable style and socially awkward personality that cause others’ aversion. Still, he is harmless, polite, and respectful. Although, theirs is far more unfamiliar, Auggie and Summer’s friendship kind of reminds me of the one I have since developed with Zack. I had always tried to include Zack in our conversations but felt like he was too embarrassed to speak amongst a large crowd. Over time though, he has become more comfortable and confident to speak as long as I am at the table with him. He is hilarious! It’s unfortunate so many people disregard him. He has taught me so much and has made many of my bad days better. Now, we spend a lot of our time laughing hysterically and making others laugh. Sure, we get more stares of disapproval than smiles but I don’t much care and fortunately Zack doesn’t seem to care either.
Thoughts about particular issues raised in the book
Culture and diversity are subjects I have always been extremely passionate about. Children often behave in ways that reflect their parents’ behavior, thus I find it critical that we as parents, adults, teachers, and role models celebrate the similarities among a diverse population instead of focusing on the differences. Also, children are conditioned to believe certain things about different cultures and backgrounds that usually are not true. Wonder does an excellent job teaching acceptance and tolerance as it addresses issues such as identity and appearance which are often the basis for one’s bullying. In telling the experiences of a boy who goes through life with a severe facial deformity, Palacio allows the reader to step in the shoes of a bully victim, and experience the psychological trauma that Auggie battles as a result of being bullied. By exposing the reader to such experiences, the reader is able to see the many negative effects of bullying and from Auggie’s experiences, develop an understanding of others’ troubles and develop compassion and empathy.
Prompts you could use when reading this book to children
As students read this book, I would use the following questions as prompts to get them to think about and respond to what they are reading.
- What can we do to be more accepting of differences?
- How can we show others “respect?”
- What is the impact of bullying on the victim?
- Why must we always choose kind?
Ten-year old Auggie has a rare facial deformity that required him to undergo numerous surgeries. Being in and out of the hospital, and the time needed for recovery from his surgeries disabled Auggie from attending regular school. After being home schooled his whole life, Auggie is now able to attend regular school. Scared to death of what the others might think him or how he may be treated, Auggie is reluctant to start school at Beecher Prep but is slightly moved by the opportunity to make his mother and father proud. In an effort to provide Auggie with a sense of comfort, the principle at Beecher Prep, Mr. Tushman asks a few former students to befriend him and show him around prior to the start of the school year. In this small group, Auggie finds a friend, an enemy, and an acquaintance. While his first few months seem never-ending, Auggie’s time at Beecher Prep with the help, love, and support of his family and a few friends, turns out to be positively life changing and unforgettable.
Auggie and his family live in a town house in present day upper Manhattan, New York City. Most of the story takes place between his home, Beecher Prep, and his sister Via’s private high school Faulkner High.
Wonder is narrated in the first person throughout, however it isn’t always the same one person narrating, as Palacio tells the story from the perspective of several other characters. Palacio tells the story from six different angles, each of them represent a different character in the book.
Palacio uses simple terminology making Wonder an easy read. It is conversational and direct which helps to make it authentic and as a result, allows the reader to make connections with the story.
Wonder is wistful, confessional and funny. It evokes a myriad of feelings as it transitions from tear jerking moments to moments of hysterical laughter and joy.
Various themes are presented in this book, and although it is geared towards adolescents, adults too can relate the subjects presented here, thus making Wonder appeal to a wider audience.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone.
Given Mr. Browne’s definition of a precept, students will collaborate with a partner to write a precept that will help contribute to a safer, kinder school environment.
What are some things you can do to provide a safer, kinder place for your peers?
What are some of the things Summer did to make school a kind place Auggie?
What kind of impact can you make if you always choose kind?
Activity: Mr. Browne’s monthly precept helps students to see outside their world and to think about their beliefs. Mr. Browne’s definition of a precept is anything that helps guide you when making important decisions. Place students in pairs and ask them to write their own precepts that could be applicable to all students in their school to make it a safer, kinder place to be. Students will write their precept on a large poster and decorate it. All posters will be hung throughout the school as reminders to always choose kind.
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