A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Book of Precepts follows R.J. Palacio's bestselling Wonder and features some of that novel's characters. The premise is that fictional fifth-grade English teacher Mr. Browne -- known for sharing "precepts," or word to live by, with his students -- has gathered a precept for each day of the year, mainly from famous writers, philosophers, and celebrities, such as, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. -- Aesop." In real life, 100 of the precepts in this book came from students who sent Palacio their own precepts after reading Wonder. In between the months of precepts are prose passages from Mr. Browne, some of which feature the voices of students he taught in Wonder. The precepts are inspiring and thought-provoking, and the prose passages are full of positive messages about compassion and kind behavior. In one passage, the character Julian provides the context of his bullying, and readers see his note of apology to Auggie.
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What's the story?
365 DAYS OF WONDER provides a "precept," or words to live by, for each day of the year. These are ostensibly offered, one per page, by Mr. Browne, a character from R.J. Palacio's bestselling middle grade novel Wonder. Mr. Browne teaches fifth-grade English at Beecher Prep, the fictional school introduced in Wonder, where he helped his students accept Auggie and have compassion for a boy with a disfigured face. Between each month of precepts is a short essay by Mr. Browne or sometimes an email or a letter exchanged between him and a student from "last year" (Auggie's class). Readers hear from the bully Julian as well as Summer, Jack, Charlotte, Auggie, and Amos. The precepts, which Mr. Browne says he's "collected over the years," are drawn from both the famous (including Anne Frank, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Mother Theresa, Bob Marley) and 100 real kids who sent author Palacio their own precepts after reading Wonder.
Is it any good?
It would be easy to dismiss 365 Days of Wonder as one of those point-of-purchase items full of familiar wise sayings -- but this is different. It offers not only truly thought-provoking and soul-stirring words to live by but also couches them in the context of a caring teacher sharing what he's learned from his life experiences and from his students. Mr. Browne's prose passages speak directly to middle school kids, urging them to be compassionate and kind.
The message is heartfelt and not preachy, and it seems the many fans of Wonder will be inclined to listen -- and act accordingly. Mr. Browne is not naive. He simply refuses to accept the inevitably of mean behavior in middle school. He urges kids always to "choose kindness" and even show compassion toward bullies, since "everyone's got a story." This would be a great book to leave around the house, for kids and adults to dip into throughout the year.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about precepts. What words do you live by?
How do you like how author R.J. Palacio decided to have her characters from Wonder step into another book? Does Mr. Browne seem like a real person? Do the students?
Is it hard to be compassionate and kind all the time? Does having a precept help keep you on track?
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