Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.
Original publication date
What pulls at the heart is Auggie, under that face, is just a normal kid, wanting normal things. But his appearance, the effects of his condition, and the many surgeries he has needed and continues to need, all make him the center of his family's attention, and noticed wherever he goes. Palacio does a commendable job of depicting all this. His parents are real, funny, and doing better than anyone could ask or expect. His pretty sister Olivia loves him and cares for him, and only occasionally longs for some attention of her own, and some time with friends who won't turn chilly when they find out about Auggie. Her one friend who loves and understands Auggie has become estranged.
The main events of the book are triggered when his parents decide to stop homeschooling Auggie and instead mainstream him at a smallish private school. The principal, Mr. Tushman, is the knowing butt (okay, pun intended) of jokes, and is a real mensch who actually is excited about Auggie attending the school. Auggie is rightly scared, and how he fares among the natural cruelty of many children is a major driver of the plot. At times those around him seemed more like high schoolers than middle schoolers, but that didn't detract from the enjoyment of this well-told story.
Auggie understands his plight. "Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to the 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 Wookiee." He loves how his face matters not a bit to their dog Daisy. His principal understands his plight, too, and the ongoing tension between cruelty and kindness. And all that can be learned from it.
Wonder is the tale of August Pullmann, born with devastating cranio-facial abnormalities, and his first year at a "regular" school. It has a point-of-view structure, so we see some of the events not only through Auggie's eyes, but also through the eyes of other kids in his class, as well as through the eyes of his high-school-aged sister Via and her friends. Auggie himself is incredibly endearing in his simple practicality and deliberate, no-big-deal courage, but it is the supporting characters who lift this novel from the ho-hum to the extraordinary. The reason that each of my children would have received this story as a gift is that it conveys, with a minimum of fuss, the thing that everyone needs to learn: that loneliness and isolation are not the tragic fate of an unfortunate few, but in fact the truth of the human condition - and the reason that we all have to learn to be kind.
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you can.
John Wesley's Rule Page 406
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that sets him apart from everyone else around him. He has learned how to deal with people's looks, comments, horror, and shock his entire life. He must now take all his experiences in coping with how the world deals with him as he enters middle school for the very first time.
Every once in awhile, we as readers are blessed with good books and sometimes, even great books. Wonder is not just a great book, it is a special book about a very special boy that deserves all the hype and buzz it has received thus far. As a mother, my gut reaction was to want to reach out and draw Auggie in and protect him from a world that could at times be so very cruel. Upon finishing the story, I realized that of all people, Auggie didn't need people to shelter him because the strength he found within himself to face the world is a unique gift entirely his own. A determined and wise soul beyond his years, Auggie would demonstrate that it is not how we look on the outside that determines our value, but how we choose to face that outside world regardless of our circumstances that shapes and defines our character. Perhaps a criticism would be that story was too idealistic. In the real world, bullying and fitting in aren't issues that can be resolved in a neat little package, or in a 400 page storyline, but regardless of whether it is a realistic reflection or not, it is most definitely an ideal that we could strive towards. The world needs more Auggies and people who embrace a ceaseless attitude of compassion and empathy. Highly recommended.
The general plot is pretty much the one you expect from the premise of the book -- he has trials and tribulations, and the other kids have various reactions that he has to navigate. But overall, this is just QUALITY writing for middle readers (it's not YA). Almost all of the different voices add something to the story, and the characters and their situations are reasonably complex and the emotions feel very real, even given the somewhat boilerplate nature of the story arc.
A small mention that it's set in New York City, and it feels very believable and supports the plot nicely - but doesn't, I think, make things so New York-centric that other readers will be put off. It reminded me a little of When You Reach Me in this respect (although it's not at all similar to that book in terms of theme).
10-year-old August Pullman was born with a severe facial abnormality. His parents home schooled him all of his life due to his frequent surgeries and medical appointments. Now, when others August’s age are starting middle school, his parents think the time may be right for August to attend school as well. Auggie is a normal kid inside, smart and funny, and loves Star Wars and videogames. But will his new classmates be able to see past his outward appearance?
Auggie is so endearing- he won me over from the very first pages. I was so scared for him to start middle school. Middle school is terrifying under the best of circumstances! And even though Auggie has seen reactions of strangers around him all his life, it’s hard to prepare yourself for this age group. I, like Auggie, hoped for the best but steeled myself for the worst. His experience has highs and lows and focuses in on a handful of students and teachers and the different ways they interact with Auggie.
There are a few kids assigned to keep an eye out for Auggie at school to show him around. Auggie is very perceptive about others and is a good judge of character- he really is a brave little guy. It’s interesting to see the world through Auggie’s eyes and then later revisit the same scenes through the eyes of his friends when the book shifts to multiple POV. I hadn’t expected the book to shift POV actually, but it does satisfy some curiosity by hearing other characters perspective. Two of Auggie’s classmates, as well as his sister, her friend, and boyfriend all take a turn at the narration. Auggie’s sister Via is a standout character, as she shares the effect her brother has had on her life.
Hearing the different reactions to Auggie made me think about who I would be in the scenario, and I’d react in middle school if I had a classmate like him. My daughter and I had a dialogue about it, and you always hope you’d be compassionate, but it’s hard to know what is the right way to respond in the moment. The book does a great job of making you think about how to treat people fairly and with compassion. The writing is accessible and has a light touch, even though there are some heavy and distressing scenes. It is just perfect for a middle grade audience, and to read aloud for class discussion or at home. But really I think this uplifting story is appealing for all ages.
This story broke my heart and as a mom, I tried to imagine myself in the mom's position. Would I have been brave enough to send him "like a lamb to slaughter" as his dad said, or decide it was time he was in the "real world"? For many years, Auggie was protected by his family on outings and his face was only shown when necessary. He wore an astronaut helmet, a hat, or kept his hair long to hide himself from the public. When others saw him, their expressions ranged from shock to horror. The doctor himself fainted when Auggie was born. This type of facial deformation is beyond my imagination and reading stories like this make me appreciate that we were blessed with healthy children. Auggie is a bright and witty child quick with a one-liner and once he had the chance to be himself, others fell in love with him. But, do we give kids like Auggie that chance? One of my favorite lines from Auggie in the book is when he is meeting some students from his new school and one of the asks why he hasn't gotten plastic surgery. Auggie replied, "This is after surgery!". This was the perfect way to lighten the mood and show Auggie's true personality.
The book is told through short chapters and in parts told from each character's perspective. The story flows quickly and gives you everyone's perspective which I appreciated. I think my favorite section was from Auggie's teenage sister, Via (short for Olivia). Via has always been Auggie's biggest fan, but as she begins high school she wants to be known as Olivia, not as Auggie's sister. I appreciated how honest the author showed Olivia's fears and desires to have a life separate from Auggie, as well as the changes that happen to friends once high school begins.
How often do we judge others by their appearance? My sister-in-law sees this every day in her work with the homeless. I know I have been guilty of looking first at the appearance of someone before approaching them. In the book, Auggie wonders what the world would be like if we all wore masks and got to know each other before we knew what we looked like. Wouldn't this be a fun experiment to try?!
In the story, Jack was one of the children chosen by the Principal to welcome Auggie to the new school. Not all of the chosen kids took their job as seriously as Jack did and really did like Auggie. Unfortunately, he makes a mistake in the story and hurts Auggie deeply. Again, I felt like Jack was any number of kids I know, struggling between being in the "cool" crowd and being "real". Adults have a hard enough time struggling with making the right choices and Jack really came through. I want my kids to be like Jack.
This book was filled with solid, moral lessons. I will be having my boys read this and should be required reading for all middle school kids AND parents, in my opinion. The story of Auggie is a lesson in itself, but how he relates to our reality is what really opened my eyes. There will always be jerks in the world, people who don't get it and never will, but as long as the number of good people outweigh the number of bad, the good will always win. At least, I am hoping that is the kind of world I am living in.
"Wherever you are, whenever you can, try to act kinder than is necessary." Page 301
Oh, what a treat of a book! In August Pullman, Palacio has created one of the most loveable and memorable characters in modern children's literature. August is ten years old, and is a completely normal little boy in every way but one - he was born with severe facial disfigurement. The book opens as his mother tries to persuade him that it might be time to go to 'real school' for the first time. August has always been loved, protected - and taught - by his family, but during his year in the fifth grade of Beecher Prep, life is going to be very different.
Auggie's story is pretty irresistable reading. Switching between various viewpoints as the book progresses, including Auggie himself, his sister Via and his friends Jack and Summer, the author deftly explores the effects of Auggie's disfigurement on his life and the lives of everyone around him. It's a clever device that allows the reader to not only get inside Auggie's head as he faces the trials and tribulations of school life, but also to get the wider picture of how other people are coping, what people are saying, and how his new friends react to the pressure being placed on them by the less savoury characters at school.
It should come as no surprise that while Palacio offers much to smile, laugh and chortle over in this novel - it is lightly written, quite amusing and her children's voices are spot-on - there were also parts that made me frown, parts that made my eyes open wide with horror, and parts that made me tear up with indignation. It's a sad fact of life that a lot of kids (and a lot of parents) are relentlessly cruel to people who are perceived to be 'different' - and that's exactly what makes this book so important. I'd go as far as to say that it should be required reading for every child.
From start to finish the emphasis is on kindness and courage. Palacio doesn't steer away from moral gray areas - her characters make mistakes along the way and things aren't always as they seem - but ultimately she shows very clearly how bullying and insensitive behaviour can have a harmful ripple effect on people's lives, and how strength, friendship, compassion and good humour are always the better choices. I finished the book with tears in my eyes, a smile on my face - and a little place in my heart reserved for Auggie. Highly recommended!
The story of August is told through his eyes, as well as seven other people whose lives affect him. With each section, we see a little more of the story of August's first year in middle school and how other people learn to overcome their bias and be a little kinder.
It's not often that a book this powerful comes along. The characters are so realistic, that we're left wondering if this is really a fictional story. Despite its premise, the book never panders or hit readers over the head with its moral, it just lets August and his quite courage take us on his journey through 5th grade. A great story for any student age 10 and above.
“It's like people you see sometimes, and you can't imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it's somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can't talk. Only, I know that I'm that person to other people, maybe to every single person in that whole auditorium.
To me, though, I'm just me. An ordinary kid.” ~ August Pullman
It was significant that the author also told the story from the points of view of others who love Auggie. I especially appreciated hearing the thoughts and feelings of his sister, Via (short for Olivia), who loves her brother, but has had her life severely impacted by his condition. I also loved his protective and supportive parents and could feel their pain when the son they loved so much was bullied or humiliated.
Our middle school participates in the Rachel’s Challenge program, which was instituted by the father of Rachel Scott – the first person killed at Columbine High School. One of the fundamental principles of Rachel’s Challenge is to start a chain reaction of kindness. This book goes hand-in-hand with Rachel’s Challenge to treat everyone with respect and kindness.
“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.” ~ Mr. Tushman
I not only recommend this book, I strongly encourage everyone to read it – as a family, as a class, as an individual.
The strength of the book lays on it's boldness and the fact that interactions and occurrences are very, very well thought out and life-like. Painfully cruel realities that the author does not shy away from. Yet it is such a sweet book, even if the story is a hard one, it's covered with a gorgeous 'kindness' blanket that made me love it even more.
The Pullman's (August's family) family dynamics were unbelievably heart-warming. Don't we all wish we had a family like that? I guess it's true though, it takes circumstances like this one to make a family stick so close and be so appreciative and caring. If only we were all like that.
All the characters were three dimensional and fully believable. The story is told from the points of view of several of the kids (August, Summer, Jack, Olivia, Justin, Miranda) and you get a different and eye-opening perspective with each character. Each voice felt different and fitting. Chapters are very short, overall a fairly easy and fast read. And SO, SO worth it. I highly recommend it.
Reading Log Opinion Response for Wonder
I loved this book! I loved the story, the layout, the character point-of-views and the realistic situations that were presented. The way the author introduces the main character, Auggie, as a 10 year old who wishes he had a normal face so that people wouldn’t run away screaming when they saw him, immediately sucks the reader in and weighs you down with heavy emotion and anticipation. Because you read most of the story from Auggie’s point-of-view, you get to understand and sympathize with him at how isolated and lonely he must feel being born with extreme facial anomalies, and having to attend school for the first time in 5th grade, when kids can be especially cruel at this age no matter who you are. I found myself tearing up many times throughout the book when August was being made fun of or ridiculed by other kids, especially those who were supposed to be his friends. I felt that the author did not hide painful aspects of Auggie’s life and presented realistic situations that a child with deformities must face. For example, when Augie was wearing the costume and his friend, Jack, was making fun of him to other students without knowledge that Auggie was listening. This has happened to normal kids and is hurtful. I cannot imagine how it would make someone like Auggie feel.
The fact that the author, Palacio, allowed several other characters to narrate the story, was another aspect that I ended up embracing. By allowing the reader to see where Jack, Via and Miranda were coming from, it gave you a chance to understand why things were done and said and that they all truly loved and cared about August. It helped you realize that we are all human and make mistakes, and that what you see or hear is not always what is.
The layout of the story was also a pleasant surprise. Each short chapter was cleverly unnumbered and titled with words that pertained directly to the text in that chapter. For example, “How I Came to Life” was only a few pages and explained how Auggie developed his condition, quick and to the point, but with humor and mixed emotions. I also loved how the book was divided up into eight parts, each with an adjusted picture of a character with Auggie’s facial features and selected lyrics from songs, and lines from poems and books. I even enjoyed how he was called, “Major Tom” several times by Miranda, being a huge David Bowie fan myself.
Overall, this was an amazing story I was able to make connections with on many levels. It gave me insight into how someone with a cosmetic deformity sees the world and how there are a lot of good people out there who can make a difference.
Wonder is the story of a boy with a whole mixture of deformities and disorders, and how these things affect not only his life, but the lives around him as well. August's situation is difficult on each person that is affected. It is a story of being different, and embracing your differences. R.J Palacio succeeds in writing a heartwarming, tearjerking book that leaves an imprint on all of those who read it.
I would recommend this book to absolutely anybody, because I know that deep down inside, everyone has felt a bit like Auggie has.
August "Auggie" Pullman is an ordinary boy in many ways. He likes to ride his bike, eat ice cream and play XBox, just like many of the students at Canonsburg Middle School. Unfortunately, Auggie doesn't feel like a normal boy, especially when other kids stare at him or look at him and run away screaming. All because he was unlucky enough to be born with a severe facial deformity.
Now after years of home-schooling, Auggie is about to enter the fifth grade at Beecher Prep. It’s hard enough being the new kid in middle school, but being the new kid in middle school who doesn’t look like anyone else…this was going to be a challenge!
It would be nice to think that everyone at Auggie’s new school will be welcoming and accepting, but unfortunately, that isn’t the case. It rarely is. While some of the students are nice to him, others are just down-right mean. At one point, Auggie discovers that his class-mates are playing their own version of “The Cheese Touch” by spreading the rumor that you’ll get the “Plague” by touching Auggie.
So what do you think? Will the kids at Beecher Prep be up to the challenge? Will they choose to be cruel or kind? I dare you to read Wonder and not want to do your own part to make even just a small difference at Canonsburg Middle School. Are you ready to Choose to be Kind?
So it was with some pleasure that I was able to read through Wonder without any major lacunae and enjoy the novel in its entirety. Wonder, without giving anything away, is about a boy, August Pullman,with a majorly deformed face and his struggles as he transitions from home schooling to entering the fifth grade of a private school in his neighborhood of "upper Upper Manhattan." August has a loving and devoted family but nevertheless his adjustment to middle school is anything but easy.
The book begins with Auggie as narrator and the beauty of the book is that after several chapters the narrator changes to that of his sister, and then a male friend, and then his sister's boyfriend, and then a female friend, before cycling back to Auggie in the final chapters. Had the book been only told from Auggie's point of view it would have grown tedious, not because he is not a sympathetic voice, but what makes the novel compelling is drawing out the feelings and challenges of those people close to Auggie.
It would have been interesting to have heard from the book's one nasty child character, Julian, or some adults (though how the various adults feel is evident from the narrative itself). But overall the conceit of telling the tale from various points of view adds nuance and perspective and deepens the novel.
Frankly, at one point I was teary eyed, though my kids were entirely dry eyed, so maybe the deeper nuances are lost on young children. However, both my 9 and 7 year old remained very entertained by Wonder and I can only hope that they learned a lesson about kindness, endurance, character, and family love, as well as the challenges they may have to go through as they face the social and emotional trials and tribulations of that prickly period of young lives, namely middle school.
Home schooled by his mother, he is now heading for fifth grade and is scared beyond belief.
This is his tale, told by him, his sister and classmates.
There a lovely characters in this book, including strong, loving teachers, children who struggle with Auggie's appearance, bullying, and the wonderful courage of August.
Auggie Pullman is a wonder inside and out. Highly recommend to read. This book was floated as a potential Newbery award winner. I'm surprised it didn't make it to the top right up where it belongs.
Thanks to Joe for pointing this book in my directions.