I read a delightful book, Wonder, over the holidays, written by R.J. Palacio. I had a friend tell me how much she loved it and then my 5th grader told me they were reading it in class. I’ve seen it highlighted on Goodreads and Audible (my two very favorite reading apps). I needed something light-hearted and easy to listen to (I’m the biggest fan of audiobooks by Audible) during my Christmas break, so I decided to try it. I had no idea what a gem I’d found!
Because I work with children with special needs, this book immediately grabbed my attention from the beginning. It begins with Auggie’s voice as he begins 5th grade as a new student, in fact, it is the very first time he’s gone to school outside his home. Auggie has a variety of medical complications that gives him significant craniofacial abnormalities. Auggie says, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” He has always been homeschooled by his mom because of his many surgeries and recovery periods until now. He and his family are too familiar with the reactions of others when they see his face, which is why he spent much of his childhood wearing an astronaut helmet out in public.
Some of the hardest cases I’ve worked with as I’ve seen children with special needs, are the children who are aware of how very different they are. Many of these children are very bright and aren’t fooled into thinking they fit in with their peers. They understand the expectations and norms of adults and their peers and also are very aware that they are not meeting those expectations and norms. It’s emotionally heartbreaking as you watch them work so hard to fit in, but many times you realize, they probably never will. Auggie would be an example of this. I love hearing his thoughts and emotions through his reality.
After settling into the book and getting acquainted with Auggie, I absolutely was surprised with excitement to hear Auggie’s sister, Via, to take a part in Auggie’s story! Every child with special needs is part of a family and many times we forget that larger unit and how perspectives change when you look from another angle. Siblings of children with special needs usually carry an unseen load that is rarely recognized. I was the oldest sibling in a family that had a child with special needs. Even as an adult, as I listened to Via, my own memories and emotions were echoed vividly in her voice.
R.J. Palacio continues offering realistic and different voices from childhood friends surrounding Auggie and Via. Hearing only children’s voices, thoughts and perspectives was refreshing and enlightening. We often hear too much talking from the adults and rarely listen to the children who have valuable lessons to teach us.
This is a book that I will definitely have my own children read. I want them growing up seeing many other perspectives so they are at ease building relationships with many different people. I’m so happy that my child’s own 5th grade teacher was wise enough to implement this into her curriculum already! I can’t think of a person I wouldn’t recommend this book to!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize 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.” –Mr. Tushman
Thank you R.J. Palacio!
Have you or your children read Wonder? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*I am part of the Amazon Associates Program. If you choose to buy this book from Amazon, I’d love for you to purchase it through the link on my website to help support the work I do with Yums Theraplay! Thank you!