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Moving, uplifting tale of disfigured boy with inner beauty.
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What parents need to know

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

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.


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.


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


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.

Not applicable
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.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Wonder is about young boy, August Pullman, who has a congenital facial abnormality. 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. Read by Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Diana Steele in the audiobook version, which the American Library Association named a 2013 Notable Children's Recording.

What's the story?

August Pullman is a fifth-grade boy with a severe facial deformity. His loving parents and sister have shielded him from many outside influences before WONDER begins; he has 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.

Families can talk 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

Author:R.J. Palacio
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship, Great boy role models, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date:February 14, 2012
Number of pages:320
Publisher's recommended age(s):8 - 12

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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 RJ Palacio was astonishing! I think the book was for grades fifth-eighth grade, and adults would like it. I think fifth and sixth graders would especially like it because it is about a boy named August, who has just started middle school and is facing many struggles. August has a “deformed” face, at least that’s how most people see it, but under that face is a very kind person. I think adults, 7th, and 8th grade will like it because it touches the heart. There are many parts where August has struggles and he barely makes it through them. I think it is too old for kids who are younger than fifth grade, and a high school or college student might have trouble getting into the book. Wonder was great writing. I liked how the author gave each character their own section. In the section they would give you their opinion and an inside look on the situation. I think it was nice that the book characters all evolved around August. August changed the way they saw and judged people throughout the book. This book can teach many different lessons. The one that stood out to me was not to judge by the way someone looked but by the inner character of that person. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “I hope that one day my four little children will be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. This book is a very detailed reminder of this statement.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Educator and Parent 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 schoolers. It is the story of a boy with a genetic craniofacial deformity who has been homeschooled through fourth grade because of his frequent childhood surgeries. When the story begins his parents have decided they think he should go to school for the first time for fifth grade. The story covers his first year in school. It is told in first person, but the parts of the story are told (and in some cases retold) from several characters' viewpoints. The boy himself, his older sister, two of his friends from school, his sister's boyfriend, and his sister's friend take turns. Each narrator adds subtle new dimensions to the story. The theme of the book is that we can all choose kindness, and this theme is developed through amazingly honest and poignant portrayals of middle school and high school social dynamics and family dynamics. The author excels at showing not telling. It never feels preachy or overdone, or like an issue advocacy book. But the messages are there loud and clear: Being nice is not the same as being a friend, doing the right thing often costs you something but it's worth it, everyone has something to be grateful for, peer pressure makes you stupid, but it's never too late to change your course, we all need people who love us unconditionally. The book was convicting, laugh out loud funny, truthful, hopeful, and heart-warming. Because I know some people are have stricter standards than I have, here are all the things anyone might possibly want to be aware of before recommending it to a child: There are some gluteal-themed jokes revolving around the names of a teacher named Miss Butt and the principal Mr. Tushman. The word "sucks" is used a few times. A funny story involves the "farting nurse" who attended the main character's birth. A dog is put to sleep. One character briefly explains his views of reincarnation. It is mentioned that peripheral characters play Dungeons and Dragons at recess. There are repeated references to Star Wars characters and other popular culture items. Halloween is the main character's favorite holiday. Middle school students have crushes on each other and "go out" with each other. The fifteen-year-old sister has a boyfriend and it mentions him kissing her twice. There are two references (both by girls) to being flat-chested. A couple times girls are referred to as "hot." One character's father has been killed in the Iraq war. There is a brief mention of one character's divorced father getting married to his pregnant girlfriend, and another character's parents are divorced. There are a couple instances of copying homework and lying to teachers or parents with no repercussions. There are varying degrees of bullying depicted, some of which is pretty cruel. Overall, it had very positive portrayals of family, parents, authority figures, and young people. It was really thought-provoking and has so much fodder for fruitful discussion with upper elementary or middle school students. The book is so beautifully written that older students (and parents) can also really appreciate it too.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Parent 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 from several points of view which is very enlightening. Take home messages included, you can count on your parents even if things get tough, sometimes people make mistakes and deserve second chances, sometimes you just have to suck it up and endure and most importantly, in general, things change over time - particularly in middle school so that even when things seem their darkest, a better day is coming. We were all sad to see this book end and gave it to each of their teachers on the last day of school.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models