By Rachel Hoeing
“I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. 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.
If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing. Here’s what I think … the only reason I am not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way.”
These two paragraphs are the beginning of the book Wonder, which takes you into the world of August Pullman. Auggie was born with a facial deformity. He had been homeschooled the majority of his life, but now he was beginning his fifth grade year at a regular school, with regular kids. Unlike other kids, all he hoped for was to just be ordinary.
My son, Jake, who is also in the fifth grade, read this book and I read it as soon as he finished it. It sparked some amazing conversations between the two of us and I can only hope that each of you reading this blog today will read the book along with your son or daughter. Depending on maturity and reading level, I feel this book is appropriate for most children 4th grade and up.
Both Jake and I had instances where we laughed out loud while reading and also instances where we buried our faces a little deeper into the book to hide the tears forming in our eyes.
Without giving away too much of the storyline, I will tell you that our conversations about the book included topics such as bullying, empathy, sympathy, kindness, inclusion, not judging a book by it’s cover, how to handle difficult situations, what it means to be the underdog, how to stick up for others, what it’s like to be the new kid, what it’s like to be a teenager, the list goes on and on.
We talked about the fact that ANY child is nervous starting a new school, but imagine beginning school for the first time ever, and beginning school when you know without a doubt that everyone will be looking at you and judging.
As you can tell from my excerpt at the beginning of this post, the book begins from Auggie’s point of view. You immediately feel connected to this child and want to do anything to help him survive in his new school. You immediately judge other children for the way they treat Auggie, but this is a great learning tool as well because as the book goes on, chapters are told from the other children’s perspectives and the reader will often get some surprising insight on the other characters.
Since Jake finished the book before I did, it was funny when I would say, “I can’t believe John treated Auggie that way! I thought he was much more caring than that.” Only to have Jake smile and say, “Just wait mom, you may change your mind on John!” (*I changed the character name to not spoil any of the book!)
Jake also noted how so many of the kids who were bullied in the book seemed to be the ones who were the most kind. After talking about it, he realized that he has noticed that at his own school as well. “Why is that, mom?” he would ask me. “Why are some of the nicest kids always the ones that others make fun of?”
This book was an amazing opportunity to kick the door of communication wide open. As our team member, Kelly wrote in her blog last week, finding opportunities for bonding with your tween or teen can be essential to their growth and development. I hope you will take advantage of this inspirational book to do just that. It is definitely a book that I don’t think Jake or I will forget for a long time.
Here is the link to Wonder by R. J. Palacio on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Wonder-R-J-Palacio/dp/0375869026. If you have read Wonder, please share your thoughts below!