Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Shadowing The Carnegie Award

Wonder by R J Palacio

Wonder is an extraordinary book. It tells the story of a ten year old boy called Auggie who is about to start at middle school and his experiences during his first year there. Auggie was born with severe genetic facial disfigurement and has been home-schooled by his parents up to now. Starting a new school is difficult for many children but for Auggie the situation is made much harder as others appear to be unable to treat him as the ordinary boy he so desperately wants to be because of the way he looks.

The story is initially told by Auggie himself, an endearing and likeable boy with a sense of humour and obsessed with Star Wars; I warmed to him quickly. As the book progresses the story is told by several of the other characters including Auggie's elder sister, Via and his friend Jack. This works very well as the story continues to move forward and each of these characters is altered in some way by their relationship with Auggie. I particularly liked the section by Via as it conveyed extremely well the complexity of her feelings and the inevitable problems encountered by siblings of children who require so much of their parents' attention. The chapter "written" by her felt very real to me. Despite the difficulties she faces coping with typical teenage traumas, to a certain extent on her own, her love for her younger brother is obvious. Although there are no sections written by Auggie's parents the author manages to make them come to life through others' descriptions of them. The telling of the story in different voices also adds an extra dimension to some of the incidents that occur explaining why a character may have acted in a particular manner. However there are still some characters who come out of this story badly, in particular a mother at Auggie's school.

This is a relatively easy read with short chapters, some less than a page long, suitable for children of about ten plus. However this is a special book with an important message. Although there are quite a few books about children overcoming adversity this one stands out. It demonstrates the importance of celebrating difference and is full of warmth, sadness, bravery and humour, but more than anything it is about the power of kindness. I think every child should have a teacher like the wonderful and wise Mr. Tushman, the headmaster of Auggie's school. As a school librarian I will be recommending this to pupils, teachers and parents. A must read.

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