Wonder

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Wonder Book Poster Image
Moving tale of facially different boy with inner beauty.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 36 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 162 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Wonder's greatest lessons are more emotional or behavioral than academic. But the book does go into some detail about genetics and the probability of a child developing physical differences like Auggie's. The novel also offers a telling view into middle school life and curriculum and a bit about the differences between middle school and high school culture. One of the teachers, Mr. Browne, teaches his students about precepts, and they discuss a new precept every month. Many of these are great life lessons from authors, spiritual leaders, and philosophers.

Positive Messages

Wonder has a unique and powerful way of reminding readers that beauty is only skin deep. The novel also offers lessons about the dangers of responding to peer pressure and the importance of simple human kindness. The precepts that Mr. Browne teaches his students also introduce various meaningful ideas.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Almost all of the adults in Wonder are beautiful role models for Auggie, his sister Via, and their friends. Auggie's parents, in particular, are so loving, devoted, patient, and kind that their kids' friends wish they could join the Pullman family. Auggie's teachers and Mr. Tushman, the director of Beecher Prep, are caring educators who deftly ease Auggie out of some challenging situations, but also let him find his own way socially. Auggie himself shows real grace, as well as enough believable kid emotion to make him as convincing as he is admirable.

Violence

Some kid-on-kid violence. Auggie's friend Jack Will punches another boy. Some seventh-grade kids pick on Auggie and his friends and physically assault them. Kids are pushed, bruised, and scraped, and a child's sweatshirt is torn; the violence in this scene is preceded by verbal abuse, which makes the physical attack especially disturbing.

Sex

Auggie's high school sister, Via, has a boyfriend, and they kiss a few times.

Language

No curse words, but a lot of hate speech. Other children call Auggie an "alien," an "orc," and a "freak"; they slip notes into his locker telling him to "Get out of our school," and they pretend he has a contagious disease that they call the Plague.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Auggie and a couple of his classmates come across some seventh-grade kids whom they observe smoking. It's not entirely clear whether they're smoking cigarettes or pot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wonder is about 10-year-old August Pullman, who has a genetic facial difference. After being homeschooled, he enters school for the first time in fifth grade and has to cope with a range of reactions to his unusual appearance, as well as a lot of typical middle school drama. Some kids use hateful language, and some people suggest that Auggie is mentally deficient. These situations are upsetting, as are other hardships that Auggie's family endures, including loss of a beloved family pet. However, goodness wins out, and readers should find it inspiring and uplifting. A high school couple kisses a few times, and Auggie observes some seventh-grade kids smoking, but it's not clear whether they're smoking cigarettes or pot. The book was adapted for the 2017 film starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jason Tremblay. The audiobook version, read by Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Diana Steele, was named a 2013 Notable Children's Recording by the American Library Association.

User Reviews

Adult Written byChristy J December 13, 2013

Definitely worth it.

It is one of the most moving books I have read in a long time, and I am still pretty amazed at how the author wove so much complexity into a story for middle sc... Continue reading
Adult Written byJAH123 June 7, 2012

Not to be missed

This is a faboulous book. Our family read it together (9 and 11 year olds) based on the recommendations of local book store owner. Auggie's story is told f... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 20, 2012

"Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover"

Dear Viewer, I was introduced to Wonder through school. It was a required reading book and I thought it might be hard to get into, but I was wrong. Wonder by R... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 18, 2013

if you do not like to read , read this book !!!

This book is amazing , touching , bright , all the good things you look forward into a book. This you really picture how a person like august feels . I always h... Continue reading

What's the story?

August Pullman is a fifth-grade boy with a severe facial difference. His loving parents and sister have shielded him from many outside influences before WONDER begins; he's been homeschooled up until that point, for example. But at the start of the book, his mother has decided that it's time for Auggie to brave a real school experience. Auggie is upset and afraid to face the kids' reactions to his appearance, but there's also part of him that wants to do "normal" things. The director of his new school, Mr. Tushman, introduces Auggie to a small group of students before school starts, thinking this will help ease the transition. Whereas some of the students Auggie meets are accepting and kind, others are a bit put off by him, and still others are downright cruel. The novel follows Auggie's first year of middle school from beginning to end. It's a year in which Auggie experiences the best and the worst of human nature and a year of tremendous emotional growth for him.

Is it any good?

Auggie himself is a very convincing and poignant character -- definitely not just a device -- and his story is extremely moving and uplifting. Author R.J. Palacio writes the book in multiple voices -- Auggie's, some of his friends', his sister's -- and the different points of view are mostly very well-realized and show the inner feelings of the different characters.

There are a couple of aspects of Wonder that don't ring true. Auggie's parents are almost too perfect to be believed, and the main mean kid in the novel is a bit too easily dispensed with.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about peer pressure. Sometimes we feel pushed to reject someone -- even a friend -- because others don't like that person. How would you handle the situation that Jack Will faces?

  • Why do you think some people are cruel to Auggie?

  • If you wrote a precept -- like Mr. Browne's class does -- what would it be?

  • Do you think Auggie's parents did the right thing in sending him to school?

Book details

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