My book club picked Wonder for this month of January and I decided to be a good book club member (for once) and actually read the book I’m supposed to, rather than the books that I want to read. I read the entire thing in almost one sitting which means that I was avoiding something else in my life (grading and laundry, I stopped to play with some Shopkins and a certain blond 5 year old who wanted me to hang with her). I Wonder is a middle grades book and it reads like one–it’s quick, it touches on all the main topics but in a somewhat superficial way (which I think is age appropriate…they should make Wonder for adults and I think I’d be crying for days) . The premise is this, August “Auggie” Pullman has never attended a school before. This is mainly because of his numerous surgeries as a young child and his parents’ desire to shield him from the world before he was ready for it. You see, Auggie has facial/cranial deformities that are quite noticeable, and if you don’t remember, middle school is a real bitch if you don’t have any abnormalities health-wise or otherwise. The story is told from numerous points of views such as Auggie, his sister Via, Via’s boyfriend, Auggie’s first friend Summer as well as Jack Will, a boy who wants to be friends with Auggie as well as fit in.
The different points of view were ok, I thought some of them added to the story, but perhaps there were a few too many. Also, since I’m not a fifth grade kid but rather a 40 year old mother, I wanted the mom or dad’s point of view. This would be the most interesting POV for me because I can relate to wanting to help your children navigate the world and also knowing that there comes a time when you have to let them sink a little so they learn to swim. Add medical complications to the already complex duties and emotions of a parent and I think there’s the story for me. But this story isn’t really for me. This is a story to teach kids to be kind to one another…and THAT’S what I wonder about.
There is a quote in Wonder by Dr. Wayne W Dyer that states, “If you have the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind” and wow, what a message that is for developing, young personalities. We get a sense of how hard it is to buck the tradition of avoiding all things “other” through the character of Jack Will and the mob mentality of tweenagers as they tried to avoid “The Plague” (aka not touching Auggie for fear of “catching” his genetic issues) but I think this needed to be focused on more. The story IS heartwarming and it has a few moments where kids have to take a stand between right and wrong but this story is more positive and upbeat than I think the real story would be.
All in all, I think it’s a engaging story, and I think if more kids read books like this, with characters who don’t have the same life as the reader, then we can continue to promote empathy. If you haven’t noticed, it appears that we have a deficit in that area today in American culture–the book does bring the importance of teachers and parents in helping to develop this with our children (and other adults sadly). In life, if we allow ourselves to explore the lives of other genders, races, parts of the world, socio-economic statuses we become different people who may be influenced by the experience. Wonder is a good book to start with that.