Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Rating: 5/5 Stars
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?
Wonder is beautiful. But in the end, August is not just like his classmates. He is better. Stronger, braver, smarter, and kinder. But he is teaching them and changing the way they think. And that is what's most important about this book.
Wonder is about August. A normal ten-year old boy who was born with a facial deformity. He's been homeschooled by his mom, mostly due to multiple surgeries and sick days that kept him from attending school regularly. But before he enters 5th grade, his parents think it might be time for him to attend school with other kids. August is fully aware of what this means. He's noticed the way people behave around him, sees how they are afraid of him, and he understands that he looks different from everyone else. And he deals with it well, when he's at home with his family and close friends. But he's not sure he can handle being around kids that don't know him, not sure he's ready to face the real outside world.
Wonder is told from several different point of views. We mostly hear from August, who is a wonderful and honest narrator. We also get to hear from his family, friends, and some random people. I actually really enjoyed the differing views in this book because they all had different feels to them and offered thoughts that we wouldn't have gotten from August alone. And they all felt real. My favorite POV may have even been Via, August's sister. She was fantastic. Her love for Auggie was incredible, even when she knew things weren't quite fair for her, she just wanted to protect and love her brother. I wish all books with multiple points of views were done as well as this one.
The best part of August's story, out of everything he goes through during his first year in school, is his ability to teach the people around him what's truly important. It doesn't matter how popular you are, how much money your family has, who your friends are, or what classes you take, it matters how you treat people. It matters how nice you are. It matters what, and who, you stand up for. As August says, "The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they've died. They're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you.” How do you want people to remember you?
Wonder is a book that will make you think. It will make you think about how you treat people, how you view the world, and how you can be a little bit kinder to those around you. Wonder may not be entirely realistic, but it is heartfelt. And a wonderful coming-of-age middle grade book that everyone should read. I definitely recommend this book and give it 5 stars.
Level: Middle Grade
Published: January 23, 2012
"You think you're a fairy godmother or something?" I asked. "Or something," Michael agreed. Edda is tired of her nickname, 'Mouse', and wants to be braver. But when her house is burgled on her thirteenth birthday, Edda is more afraid than ever. That is until new boy Michael Scot starts school. There's something peculiar -- and very annoying -- about know-it-all Michael. He claims to be a great alchemist who can help Edda overcome her fears by teaching her to build a golem. But surely they can't bring a giant mud monster to life? Can they? (Summary from Amazon)
How to Make a Golem and Terrify People is written from Edda's point of view. The book opens with Edda sitting on her front lawn after burglars have broken into her house and taken her birthday presents. We learn that Edda has moved around quite a bit in her 13 years, is nicknamed Mouse because she is always scared, and has only ever felt at home in this house. Until she no longer does. To keep her parents from moving again, she decides she's going to stop being Edda the Mouse for good and start being brave. And her new friend, the strange new student Michael Scot, is going to help her. Edda confides in Michael that she is scared and together they set out on an adventure that he promises will cure Edda of her scaredy-cat ways and maybe even keep the school bully away from her for good.
Alette J. Willis does a wonderful job writing this coming-of-age story. As readers we are given the chance to watch Edda grow from a scared little girl into a brave teenager who believes in herself. As the mother of a preschool girl, this is the kind of book I will want my daughter to read as she gets older and Edda is the kind of character I want her looking up to and relating to. While Edda doesn't always make the best choices, she always learns from her mistakes and makes everything right in the end. There isn't a lot of depth given to the secondary characters and the younger readers may not understand who Michael Scot is or why he is so strange, but the main characters are all very well written and relatable to the younger readers.
How to Make a Golem and Terrify People is full of suspense and real-life situations. While the title and cover suggest a scary, horror-filled book, the characters are never in much danger. Other than the burglary at the beginning and the short-lived fear the characters feel when faced with the Golem, the book is never too scary. This is ultimately a story about friendships, believing in yourself, working together, and facing your fears, not an action-adventure horror story about monsters.
And that is my favorite part. I would be perfectly happy for my kids to read this and they would be happy to pick up a book with the promise of a Golem inside. Teaching kids how to overcome fears by facing them head-on, that friendships aren't always easy but always worth it, and that you should always stand up for yourself, whether to the school bully or to your parents, is very important. When a book has both those lessons and a just-right amount of suspense and monsters for the younger readers, we can all be happy with it. I would definitely recommend How to Make a Golem and Terrify People to anyone over the age of eight.