Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world.
A close friend of mine once admitted that she’d rather lose a friend than a book—at first, I thought that was genuine hyperbole. Then I realized she was stone cold serious. Wow. What a stunning statement. I love books like I love Mexican food and clean sheets and a stout fire during a winter storm, not to mention the sound of my kids’ honest laughter or a sincere embrace, but I wouldn’t sacrifice most relationships for pages—even with Jane Austen’s words on them. (Jane v. Rachel wins in a knock out, Round 1.)
Then again, we do find friends in books, don’t we? I feel close to Scout Finch (and, of course, her dad Atticus), Jean Valjean, Anne Elliot, Cassandra Mortmain, the Birches, Minny, Mariam, and more recently, Auggie Pullman. True, I have a boy named Luke with special needs, so I’m especially drawn to endearing 10-year-old Auggie, but I have zero doubt you will be too.
R.J. Palacio’s young adult book Wonder introduces us to Auggie Pullman who is blighted by a rare medical facial deformity. His abnormalities are so bad that 27 surgeries can’t erase it. His face provokes kids to ask if he was in a fire or if he is a zombie—or to just scream and run away. Auggie’s non-description of his face is no less harrowing, albeit vague: “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
When Auggie’s brilliant and remarkably supportive parents suggest that he participate in the 5th grade rather than continue homeschooling, he’s terrified. Horrified. But Ramona has nothing on Auggie Pullman the Brave, who forges ahead at Beecher Prep Middle School. His fears weren’t ill-founded. Kids are downright cruel to him at times. Auggie’s resilience is copious—it’s inspiring. While he has to carve his own path, one riddled with unique difficulties, he’s fortunate to experience a tangible closeness with his family that is ultimately a transformative force for good. He also finds out you can get through middle school without hurting anyone’s feelings, that’s really cool beans!
This is the sort of enchanting book that isn’t action-packed per se, but it’s soulful. As you follow Auggie through the halls of Beecher Prep and experience his highs and lows, you’ll catch yourself feeling deeply for him. (I cried more than once and young adult books seldom, if ever, make me weep.) In fact, you’ll begin to wonder if kindness isn’t the most important practice of all—not because of schmaltzy prose or crazy sentimentality, but because of a prolific boy who possesses more courage and kindness behind his ill-placed eyes than most others. “Maybe the universe does take care of its most fragile creations in ways we can’t see.”
P.S. i read Wonder to Luke and naturally he loved Auggie too.
Posted by Tracy
* Because we're huge fans of kids and great books, we'll bring the two together every week on Kid Lit Tuesdays. If you find one you love, share it with your child's teacher. Rachel gave Wonder to her son's 7th grade reading teacher and she based the entire 7th grade curriculum around it the following year. We can't think of a better lesson for middle schoolers to be learning than kindness.