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The Little Book That Could

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TITLE: Wonder

AUTHOR: R. J. Palacio

LENGTH: 320 pages

PUBLISHER: Knopf Books for Young Readers

SUMMARY: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
 
In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out. Join the conversation: #thewonderofwonder

BRIDGE: There are so many uses for this tiny little book. That’s why I’m calling it The Little Book That Could. I heard buzz about this book before it was published all the way back in November of 2011 at the NCTE Annual Convention in Chicago. Then after all of my Nerdy Book Club friends were raving about it, I just had to get my hands on it. I read this book in four hours. It is elegant in its simplicity and sticks with the reader long after the last page. Auggie’s story is hard to stomach for those who do not deal with the daily cruelties children inflict on one another in the absence of their parents and all too realistic for those of us who do. The sincerity of Summer and the conflicted nature of Auggie’s family relationships are all realistic elements of middle schoolers’ lives that will resonate with those readers, their teachers, and their parents.

Of course, the bridges to several classics are fairly obvious. It would be perfect to use Wonder as a bridge to Wells’ The Invisible Man,  Sparks’ The Elephant Man, or even the drama Harvey by Mary Chase. The exploration of looking past one’s physical appearance or delving into the influence a seemingly unwanted presence has on the people around him would be interesting discussions to have with adolescents. It would also be interesting to have students write about experiences in which they have been misjudged or “bullied” and how it affected them. This would be a fantastic way to have students brainstorm ways to combat prejudice and bullying as well.

READERS: I’m not sure there is a reader to whom this book would not appeal. Adults and younger readers alike will connect with multiple aspects of the story and the vivid characters. Perhaps only die-hard fantasy fans would have difficulty getting into the story.

OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy Palacio’s book might also enjoy The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, or One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

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