BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

WonderWhen a book is this original, this heartfelt, this inspiring, this real, I find myself babbling in cliché: Wonder is truly wondrous.

Auggie Pullman is 10. He’s about to start fifth grade after being homeschooled, and he’s more than a little nervous: “I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. … And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.” Born with a genetic facial deformity, Auggie has survived 27 operations since he was born. “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

In a world where being even a little different can cause a lot of heartbreak, Auggie’s entry into a New York City private middle school is a shocker – for both him and everyone around him. Wonder follows Auggie through his public debut as he navigates beyond his comfort zone, finding new friends and allies, experiencing an independence he (nor his family) dreamed of, and learning who to trust and who to let go. [The NON-Wonder Award, by the way, unquestionably goes to a wealthy parent (who is vice president of the school board, no less) who Photoshops Auggie out of the class picture and even shares it with other parents!]

R.J. Palacio enhances Auggie’s story with multiple points of view – his friends, his sister, his sister’s new boyfriend, his sister’s ex-best friend even! – to create a richly detailed, utterly believable record of one extraordinary boy’s one unforgettable year. Note to parents: don’t read (or listen, as I did – so convincingly narrated by Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd) in crowded places, unless you’re okay with being an exhibitionist (pack Kleenex!).

Tidbit: So even though Wonder practically debuted on the bestseller lists, I actually heard about it as book news – that is, it made book headlines as a kiddie-to-adult crossover hit, much like Mark Haddon’s fabulous The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (to which Wonder is constantly being compared), and other no-age-limit contemporary classics like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (oh, be still my heart!) and John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (holy moly!). In the U.K., Wonder (which debuted in the U.S. in February) hit shelves with two different covers, two different pub dates: the younger edition in March, the adult earlier this month! Uncommon publishing news indeed.

Tibit2: R.J. Palacio is actually pseudonym. Am I supposed to reveal that? Since the information is google-able, I guess I can share: Raquel Jaramillo. This is her fiction debut, but she’s had a long publishing history with Henry Holt and Workman, too. All that literary experience certainly paid off big-time, most especially for us lucky readers. WOWOWOW!

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult

Published: 2012


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