A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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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.
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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?
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