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A retired librarian friend of mine recently suggested some new books to me. She knows I love to read and that I’m always looking for new, interesting books. So, when she suggested the book, Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, I knew I needed to get a copy to read for myself. Fortunately, Amazon is at my fingertips and it took only a couple minutes to locate the book and order it. I am an Amazon Prime member so it only took two days for the book to arrive in my mailbox so I could begin reading.
I am a teacher, and I love reading about children triumphing over hardships or difficulties and navigating through tough situations. For me, stories like this encourage me as a teacher and help me to realize the difference I can make in the life in a child who might be struggling. It is encouraging to read about children who are trying to go beyond the expectations and peer pressure of their friends and do something that is better than expected.
Anyway, this story is about a boy with severe facial differences. He has been homeschooled and somewhat sheltered from others due to the negative reactions of so many people when they saw his disfigured face. This boy is August, or Auggie to his friends. He is ready to start middle school and his parents have decided it’s time to branch out a bit and try traditional school this year – if Auggie is ready for the change.
It turns out, that middle school is a difficult time to try to fit in already – even if you look “normal” but Auggie’s challenges are multiplied by the appearance of his face. He wants to be normal and have friends. He wants to be able to eat a sandwich the way the other kids eat. He wants to fit in. But throughout the year, he experiences devastating events, exhilarating breakthroughs, losses, gains, and friendships in unexpected places.
I don’t want to give you any spoilers. You can find those somewhere else. But the thing that struck me the most as I read this book were the precepts that Mr. Browne, Auggie’s teacher, shared with the class each month.
The first precept for the school year was “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” This precept stuck with the class for the year and throughout the story, the children are working through this choice.
Each section is written from a different person’s perspective so it is really interesting to see how each person responded to the same situations. They each had choices to make depending on their perspectives. They experience the tension of not fitting in differently but all are affected by it.
Mr. Browne’s precept for October was: “Your deeds are your monuments.”
The book ends with deeds of kindness making a difference for more people than just Auggie. People who thought they were doing a favor to Auggie by being kind, were actually given the opportunity to receive kindness and friendships they didn’t plan on.
I have almost finished Auggie and Me which is the second book in this series. This book expands on the impact Auggie had on the three of the other students in his class. They were challenged by wanting to be kind, but also wanting to fit in. These books are simple stories, but also delve into much deeper issues that affect all of us. What will we choose? Right or kind? What kind of monuments are we leaving behind by our deeds.
This is a story of challenges and triumphs. Tears and smiles. Loneliness and friendships. Check it out. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the books! What was your favorite part?