Wonder by R.J. Palacio – Book Review

If you have a Year 6 child about to go up to ‘big school’ you will love this book. If you have a child with additional needs or who stands out in anyway that makes them uncomfortable, you will love this book. If you are human being with a heart of compassion – you will love this book!

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It is the  wonderful, moving, engaging story of August, a 10 year old boy who goes to school for the first time. Like all really good ‘children’s’  books it is also a brilliant read for adults.

August was born with a severe facial disfigurement and has been home schooled all his early life due to the huge number of surgeries he has had to undergo. ‘Wonder’ tells the story of his launch into Middle School.

One of the strengths of the book is that we hear the story told from the view point of a number of different narrators and this gives such a full account of how it feels not only to be different in way that’s uncomfortable for that person but also for his big sister, who often feels overlooked and for the children at school who struggle with their own fears and reactions. If there are two sides to every story – this story is told from at least 4 sides and is all the richer for that.

The complexities of family and friendship relationship are brilliantly observed. The drama of the end of year summer camp is terrifying and I defy you to get through the Headmaster’s end of year speech without  at least a lump in your throat.

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“If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, someday, may recognise in you, in every single one of you, the face of God… or whatever politically correct spiritual representation of universal goodness you happen to believe in” 

The story is set in New York so there are some cultural references that elude me but the subject matter is the universal human concern for acceptance, finding our place in the world and being the best we can be.

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I think this book should be a ‘must read’ for every child. I hope it will become a classic, it reminds me slightly of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ but its strength is that it has more than one narrator.

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