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BookMark: "Wonder" By R.J. Palacio

Wonder book cover and essayist Laura Sarge
Emily Reddy

The idea behind Bellefonte READS! is to bring our community together, to start conversations, learn together, and strengthen our community through communication and reading. We achieve this by selecting a book that sparks conversation. In past years we have chosen books with more global themes, but this year we chose a book that will resonate with families on a local level, a book that deals with issues that we see every day in our own community. 

The multi-award winning book Wonder was written for upper elementary and middle school children, but its thoughtful, often comical, writing can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. One-hundred and four families attended the Bellefonte READS! book distribution night and took home copies of the community-wide reading selection Wonder by R.J. Palacio, or a copy of the selected supporting books for younger readers.

In Wonder, August Pullman (known as Auggie) is about to start 5th grade at a new school. Anyone who has ever been the “new kid” knows how difficult that transition can be. Auggie is a normal 10-year-old kid; at least he feels like a normal 10-year-old kid. The reason people don’t treat him like a normal kid is because Auggie was born with a disorder known as Treacher-Collins Syndrome and other facial malformations. Because of the numerous surgeries he’s needed, Auggie has never attended mainstream school. Although extremely self-conscious, Auggie begins middle school at a private school called Beecher Prep.

While he was home-schooled, Auggie’s one true friend was his dog Daisy. But at Beecher Prep Auggie eventually manages to make some human friends. Immediately Summer and, eventually Jack, help Auggie to accept himself through their friendships.

Mr. Tushman, the director of Beecher Prep, and Auggie’s teacher Mr. Browne, do their best to help Auggie have a good experience at the school. Both adults try to teach kindness to all of the students at Beecher Prep. But not everyone is nice to Auggie. The main antagonist is Julian. Along with a supporting cast of other bullies and unkind characters, he does his best to isolate and humiliate Auggie and anyone who associates with him.

The authentic emotions, interactions, and thoughts of Summer, Jack, Auggie’s sister Olivia and her boyfriend, and Auggie’s parents are exceptionally relatable. Even the cruelness of secondary characters, like Julian’s mother, makes the reader reflect on the act of kindness.

While reading Wonder you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll empathize with at least one of the memorable characters.

With two companion novels, and a film adaptation to be released this year, Wonder is not to be missed.

"Wonder" is written by R.J. Palacio. It's published by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Reviewer Laura Sarge is a children’s librarian at Centre County Library in Bellefonte.

Bellefonte READS! events include a book chat about "Wonder" on February 16th and a literacy night on March 16th with the themes of kindness and anti-bullying. Both events will take place at the Bellefonte Area High School. 

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