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Wonder by R J Palacio

  • A ten year old boy starts at a new school in the fifth grade…
  • It’s a good prep school, he passed the exam with flying colours…
  • It’ll be the first time he’s been to school, ever…
  • He’s been home-schooled by his Mom…
  • Auggie (short for August) is clever, funny and loves Star Wars…
  • He doesn’t have many friends, but his sister Via, and Daisy the dog make up for that…
  • Why?  Because people stare, then look away quickly…
  • Auggie’s face takes some getting used to…
  • He was born with multiple facial problems including a cleft palate…
  • But underneath it he’s a normal boy, who just wants to be loved …
  • It’s going to be a hard year…

That is the essence of this book in a nutshell, which follows Auggie’s first year in school. I’m not going to say much more about the plot, as you can work out what will happen. This brave youngster is putting himself (and us) on a roller-coaster that will have huge ups and downs, many twists and turns before it pulls back in to the station for the summer recess.

Yes, we readers are manipulated. Yes, it’s a bit sentimental, designed to tug at your heart-strings. But, I couldn’t put the book down. I smiled when Auggie won battles, I got cross when he struggled, and at one point I did cry. I didn’t mind all this though, for it was done with kindness.

Written for children, this book illustrates the issues of living with deformity really well. We start off with Auggie telling his own story, but in later chapters the tale is handed over to his sister and his friends, interspersed with more of Auggie’s voice. We hear both sides, including what it’s like being the sister or friend of someone like Auggie.

There are many, many valuable points about bullying and friendship to be gleaned from Auggie and his classmates. Underlying it all though, as set out by their English teacher Mr Browne, in his ‘Precepts’ for life, is the quality of being kind. He tells them, “When given the choice between being right or being kind. Be Kind.

I hope this book achieves a wide readership among boys and girls. They’ll find that  Auggie is actually great company – he’s very self-deprecating and funny. The author captures the personalities of all the children brilliantly, as she does Auggie’s parents.

Speaking of parents, I also hope that enough of them read it too – there is one event later in the book that should be a lesson to all grown-ups about snobbishness and tolerance. It got me really cross!

It may have been predictable reading it as an adult, but I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I laughed, I cried and I couldn’t put it down.  (8/10)

P.S.  The book is prefaced by a lyrics quote from Natalie Merchant’s song ‘Wonder‘ (from the album ‘Tigerlily‘).  You can see her performing the track live below.

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My copy was supplied courtesy of Amazon Vine. To explore further on Amazon UK (affiliate link), click below:
Wonder by R J Palacio. Pub Bodley Head, 1 March 2012. Hardback 320 pages.
Tigerlily by Natalie Merchant (CD)

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