Wonder /wəndər/ n. A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.
It isn't often that a book makes me cry in public. R.J. Palacio's "Wonder" did just that and more. Ms. Palacio takes readers back to the uncertainty and awkwardness of middle school, with its fragile friendships and quicksand-like social structures. Into all this she thrusts August Pullman, a boy born with facial deformities so severe he won't even describe what he looks like because, as he says, "Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse." "Wonder's" story is engaging - you'll find yourself rooting for August as he stumbles through a world that, by fifth grade, most kids find commonplace. He's plucky and funny and vulnerable and charming, so he's hard not to like. But it's in the bigger themes that Palacio's writing shines. This book is a glorious exploration of the nature of friendship, tenacity, fear, and most importantly, kindness.
This is a book for kids 8 and up, but let me suggest that we parents read it too (although, if you read it in public, I do recommend having Kleenex nearby). I started reading Wonder the same day I read an article by a mother describing how hard it is for her disabled son to make friends. Of all the things I've worried about for my son, I never gave much thought to whether or not he'd make friends. I assumed that he would and it would happen easily and naturally. But it doesn't, not for everyone, and "Wonder" reminds us of that.
So this month, in addition to Wonder, here are books that celebrate the trouble we all have fitting in sometimes. From monsters to farm animals to utensils, it never hurts to remember that just because something is different, that doesn't mean it isn't wonderful.