It’s true that August Pullman was born “different.” He has a cleft palate (one of his many operations), but that’s the least of his problems. With 27 surgeries by the time he is 10, he is still “different.” Born with rare genetic disorders, his face greets the world like a horror mask. He has had a decade to get used to the stares and the gasps, but now his parents are encouraging him to attend a public school, which is another whole world. Auggie, as his family affectionately calls him, is scared.
"Beautiful quotes from songs and poetry are interspersed throughout this marvelous book, which needs to be read to students in middle school and up. Adults will also love it because the lessons here are as universal as love."
So Auggie is surprised that his first day isn’t really that bad. Yes, he got the stares and some remarks, but on the whole it’s not awful. Three classmates (Jack, Charlotte and Julian) are assigned to be part of a buddy system --- to show him around, introduce him, teach him the ropes. They all seem nice, and he especially likes Jack Will. The teachers are also nice, especially Mr. Browne with his monthly precepts like “Your deeds are your monuments.” Those sayings turn into real learning opportunities for the class and open up some good discussions. In fact, they are so important that there is a listing of them in the book’s appendix.
Auggie learns some hard lessons at Beecher Prep, like what real friends are all about and that some “friends” are not what they say they are. So, although he is a bright, friendly, shy boy with a warm sense of humor, not everyone can see beyond his face. His first real signs of trouble come through Julian, who goes out of his way to humiliate him and band other kids against him. At one of his lowest points, Auggie overhears a boy who he thinks is his best friend say unkind things, and his world crashes around him. It’s only his supportive parents, big sister Via and family dog Daisy that help get him through the terrible weeks that follow.
Via adores her little brother, but also feels the sting of always being second place. It is Auggie’s world; though she understands it, she can’t always accept it. Most of the time she is there for him, but there are some moments when she’s just a teenager. Daisy is the best dog in the world. Every night she sleeps on the bed with Auggie. The whole family loves the little pooch his father bought from a homeless man one day. No matter what kind of day Auggie has had, or how ugly he is, Daisy loves him. She is a vital part of the family.
Auggie’s story is told both through his own voice and several other characters in the book. Via, Summer, Jack, Miranda, and even Justin (Via’s boyfriend) give glimpses into Auggie’s world, but also share insights into the depths of their own struggles. All of these voices make up his amazing world.
Auggie’s parents are both patient and understanding. They work hard to provide as normal a life for their children as they can. Everyone who meets them likes them. Their home is a haven for the friends Auggie and Via bring home. It is in this family that Justin finds he really relaxes and relates.
Beautiful quotes from songs and poetry are interspersed throughout this marvelous book, which needs to be read to students in middle school and up. Adults will also love it because the lessons here are as universal as love. As Auggie says: “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life…” R. J. Palacio will be getting a lot of them for this beautiful little story. WONDER is “wonder”ful!
Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on February 14, 2012
- Publication Date: February 14, 2012
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
- ISBN-10: 0375869026
- ISBN-13: 9780375869020