(*This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Wonder blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own. Links to the book are affiliate links.)
We meet August, or Auggie, when he enters a public school for the first time as a fifth grader.
It’s okay, I know I’m weird-looking, take a look, I don’t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a wookie started going to school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I’d probably whisper to them: Hey, there’s the wookie. And if the wookie caught me saying that, he’d know I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just pointing out the fact that he’s a wookie.
Auggie’s face doesn’t look like other kids. But he just wants to be ordinary. And he isn’t.
As you can imagine, other kids cringe when they see him, avoid looking at him, and name-call — ork, Darth Sidious, and Golum, for example.
It hurts Auggie. Auggie, who has a sharp wit, loves Star Wars, and is more brave than any of his peers. This Auggie isn’t known at first glance.
He hates at his facial defect, the life of surgeries to make his face functional, and the reactions of others when they see him.
But by the end of the book, we see a transformation in Auggie — and many of the other kids, also. In fact, the kids stop hanging out with Auggie’s biggest bully and start hanging out with Auggie. And Auggie learns that he can change people for the better and that he has strength inside him he didn’t even know about.
Annika’s sixth grade class is reading it — and the kids love it.
Focus on the Good
Annika explains her opinion about the message of the story, “There’s always going to be mean people in your life (like Julian) but you still have to live your life and look at the glass half full. Sometimes people think that when someone does something mean, it ruins the whole day. You shouldn’t do that. Focus on the good stuff, don’t let it spoil everything. That’s what Auggie’s mom said. That’s what Auggie learns to do.”
“There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie,” she said, looking at me. “But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other.”
R. J. Palacio calls Wonder “a meditation on kindness”, the other message of the book: We mustn’t judge people by how they look on the outside, but by their character. Auggie says:
“I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.”
I loved that Wonder helped us see compassion, empathy, and acceptance from a variety of character’s points of view. When I first read this book last year, it struck me as a powerful ways to meaningfully talk about bullying and kindness. I believe that it’s easier to see things first not in the lives of characters we read, so that as we read, we can apply those lessons to our own lives. In my experience as a teacher, this especially applies to kids.
Oh, and Auggie’s parents are so awesome. They make the sad humorous and they love him unconditionally. You’ll love these characters!
10 Activity Ideas for Families Reading Wonder
Buy Wonder by R.J. Palacio for a parent-child or family together book. You could read and discuss it over the winter holidays. It’s just one of those deep-thoughts books that makes for excellent conversation!
1. Download the Educator’s Guide here and pick an activity to do. (I like Overcoming Challenges and Family Relationships.)
2. While you’re reading, match up the quotes and clips quoted in Wonder with this excellent guide from Mr. W.
3. Watch “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant. Discuss the lyrics and how it applies to the book title.
4. Watch the clips related to the graduation speech here.
5. Create a Choose Kind e-card and share it with family and friends.
6. Download a favorite quote card and post in your house.
8. Read (and listen to) how R.J. Palacio got the idea to write Wonder.
9. Make your own Wonder book trailer. (Watch Random House Kids version here.)