Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio - truly reaching students (ages 9 - 14)

Have you watched a book spread from one kid to the next? It starts with just one reader connecting to it, telling a friend about it - then that friend has to read it. A few more try it out. This spring, Wonder has our classrooms buzzing with excitement as kids pass it from friend to friend. This is a book that is truly reaching kids, speaking to them, making them think - think about friendship, about bullies and about what it means to be kind.
NY: Random House, 2012
ages 9 - 14
available at your local library, my favorite bookstore and on Amazon
preview available on Google Books
Auggie feels just like an ordinary kid, but he knows that others don't see him that way. You see, Auggie was born with severe facial deformities that have required years of corrective surgeries. He's been homeschooled up until now, but his parents have decided that he's strong enough to try regular school. So beginning in 5th grade, he's starting at Beecher Prep.

Right away, kids are drawn into Auggie's character. They can relate to having to start a new school, but they can also relate to showing Auggie around. How would you react when you meet someone for the first time whose face looks completely different than yours? And how would that affect the other person?

Auggie's voice feels authentic and real. He's into Star Wars, he laughs at fart jokes, he notices everything other kids do, and he cracks really good jokes. He isn't perfect; he gets angry and justifiably so. But he's hopeful and yet realistic at the same time.

Palacio draws readers in by telling the story not only from Auggie's point of view, but also from his sister's perspective, Auggie's best friend's viewpoint, and others'. This shifting first person narrative keeps the reader involved, making them think about the characters all from different angles. It makes us feel like we're right there in school with Auggie.

What struck me as I read Wonder, was the heart, the kindness at its core. I was left thinking, wondering about what it means to be a good friend, how we can stand up for others, how we can keep true to ourselves in the face of real difficulties. And really, what makes me so happy is that it's really reaching kids, that they're responding to it, thinking about how their actions affect others, thinking about what it means to be kind.

Learn more about the story behind Wonder at R.J. Palacio's site and on this video interview with Ms. Palacio, shared by Mr. Schu at Watch.Connect.Read.

There are many starred reviews, but two I particularly like are by Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes and by Anita Silvey at Children's Book-a-Day Almanac. I was also very moved by Jen's story at Teach Mentor Texts, sharing Wonder with her student, Michelle: Wonder reminds us that kindness that makes the world go round.

The review copy was kindly sent by Random House, but I've since purchased several copies for friends and classrooms. This is a book that is meant to be shared. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. I just got this book for my Kindle and am even more excited to read it after your review! Thanks!!

  2. Great review! I just finished this book today--loved it!

  3. I had the chance to meet R.J. Palacio this weekend - what a treat to hear more about the story behind Wonder, her thoughts and experiences that led to it. A real treat.

    1. i am still reading wonder and i wanted to know if it was a true story.

    2. While Wonder was inspired by an event that happened to the author, it is a work of fiction. Does it seem like it could happen in your school?

  4. I read this a few weeks ago and LOVED it! I can't believe it was her first novel! :)


  5. What an excellent review! I loved Wonder and my co-author is planning to read it to her 5th grade class this year. How wonderful that you watched it spread like wild fire. :) We were lucky enough to interview RJ Palacio and it is up on our blog today- if you are interested in checking it out.


  6. reading it school right now love it

  7. Is it a true story?