HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Author: R. J. Palacio
Jacket Illustrator: Tad Carpenter
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012
Related website: http://www.randomhousekids.com (publisher)
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 8 – 12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Palacio, R. J. Wonder (published in 2012 by Barzoi Books, a trademark of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York City, NY). Ten year old August “Auggie’” Pullman lives with his dad Nate, mom Isabel, older sister Olivia (Via), and pet dog Daisy in the North River Heights community of Manhattan, NY. While he thinks of himself as an ordinary kid who likes Star Wars and Xbox, Auggie was born with “mandibulofacial dysotosis,” often equated with Treacher Collins syndrome, a facial disfigurement that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. His jarring facial anomalies and the 27 surgeries to deal with them have caused him to be what some call “deformed” and others a “freak.” As a result, he has been homeschooled all his life, but his parents now think that it is time for him to head to a regular school for fifth grade and enroll him at Beecher Prep Middle School. He makes some friends like Jack Will, Charlotte Cody, and Summer Dawson, but also some enemies like Julian Albans.
Meanwhile, Via is having her own difficulties adjusting to high school, estrangement from her best friend Miranda Navas, and a new boyfriend named Justin. The story begins with Auggie’s point of view, but the plot is carried on from there by his sister, a couple of his classmates, Via’s boyfriend, and Miranda. Will Auggie make it through fifth grade? How is his relationship with his sister affected? And what happens to Auggie and his friends at the fifth grade three day nature retreat in Pennsylvania? Author R. J. Palacio, pen name of Raquel Jaramillo, wrote Wonder after an incident where she and her three-year-old son were waiting in line to buy ice cream. Her son noticed a girl with a severe facial deformity and started to cry. There are a few references to farting and peeing and some childish kidding about names like Mr. Tushman or Miss Butt, but beyond this, the terms “O God” and “O Lord” are commonly used as interjections.
However, the book has a powerful message that promotes tolerance and opposes bullying. It has won a number of awards. We recently watched the Lionsgate film adaptation directed by Stephen Chbosky, written by Steve Conrad and Jack Thorne, and starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay, that was released in 2017. We enjoyed it so much that I wanted to read the novel. A few critics didn’t like it, saying that “it’s just not a totally believable story,” and that “none of the characters ring true.” The movie is a little easier to follow because it carries the story straight through rather than jumping between different narrators, but, while the book may not be perfect, I tend to agree with the reviewer who wrote, ”It’s well-written, engaging, and so much fun to read that the pages almost turn themselves. More than that, Wonder touches the heart in the most life-affirming, unexpected ways, delivering in August Pullman a character whom readers will remember forever.”