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By RJ Palacio
Publisher- Alfred Knopf, NY
I was biking with friends recently, one of who is an excellent forth grade teacher named Mindy Passe. We were talking blog as we whizzed through the streets of Charlotte, and Mindy mentioned a book that readers of my blog may find interesting. The book is called Wonder, written by R. J. Palacio. Mindy’s class read the book and discussed its themes, which both the children and the teachers found instructive. I gave the book a read and in today’s pedcast, I am going to give you my opinion and insights about the book called Wonder, by RJ Palacio.
Here is the basic story of the book: A child named Auggie is born with major facial deformities that have a genetic basis. Auggie undergoes numerous surgeries and is still left with a face that others find shockingly ugly. His mother homeschools him, but, when he is ten, his parents think it is time for him to attend school. They coax him into trying his first year with other kids at Beecher Academy, a local prep school. The book chronicles his first year at school as told through the eyes of Auggie, his family, his classmates, and teachers. Highlights of Auggie’s fifth grade year include enduring the shock of his classmates getting used to his major physical deformities, dealing with social isolation and the outright hostility of his classmates, the death of his beloved dog who was at his side during all his recoveries from surgeries, and finally gaining acceptance, respect, and even the admiration of his classmates. His classmates’ almost complete rejection at the beginning of the school year is ultimately replaced by their acceptance of his deformity and their admiration of his strength of character.
The author masterfully describes these experiences through the eyes of the children, their parents, and teachers. The story is engaging. Watching these events unfold in the book provokes the reader to ponder the following questions:
a. Why does a birth defect elicit such fear, anger and hostility in others?
b. How does Auggie have the strength of character to endure all the negative experiences he encounters?
c. How does one define character?
d. How do we make sense of the death of those we love?
e. Why do the characters change their view of Auggie from someone to be feared and reviled to someone they admire and respect?
Both young and older readers will grow from thinking about these questions. I’ve got to say that I really enjoyed this book. It was fun to read and well written. I wish I had read it with my kids when they were young. I recommend this book highly. It is written on a level that even young readers can master. That’s not to say that adult readers won’t relate to the story; I think they will. In my view, the power of this book is that it broaches subjects that we usually don’t talk about, such as how we treat those with handicaps, and how people with handicaps affect us, and visa versa. In my view, reading this book with your child can only be a positive experience. I highly recommend that you buy it, download it, or check it out of the library. You will be glad you did. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 Doc Smo stars
I didn’t know that a book review could have so much relevance to current events, but I think this one does. In the book’s case we are examining how a child and society interact when the child has a severe physical deformity. In the case of Newtown Connecticut, substitute autism/Asperger syndrome for the deformity and it seems to me many of the themes are the same. Something to think about. Thanks for joining me today. I hope you can listen to other DocSmo topics you will find at my blog, www.docsmo.com. As always, your comments are welcome. This is your host, Dr. Paul Smolen, helping you fill the need for a darn good read. Until next time.