The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Book Review: Wonder

Last year I read a book that I immediately fell in love with and determined I would read to my class every year for as long as I have a class to read it to. I will admit to having a bias in favour of it ahead of time because my teacher friends online had been raving about it non-stop for months. I first read it last year and then read it to my class as our very last read aloud. Several of my students commented that they absolutely loved the story and that I just had to read it to my next class at the very start of the next year.

And yet somehow I don’t actually own this book for myself or my classroom library. Yet. (Barnes & Noble is hosting an Educator Appreciation Week in October and I will be able to get some pretty awesome discounts on books. You can bet your bottom dollar that this book is going to be the top of my list to buy!) Fortunately, our school library has a copy and I was able to snatch it up before anyone else got to it this year.

Additionally, this book is a Battle of the Books selection for this year, which means that many of my students are going to be reading it again. (Awesome!)

So, what book is this that has made such an impact on me, my teaching, and my classroom? It is, of course, Wonder by R. J. Palacio. If you have somehow missed out on catching wind of this story, here’s the book trailer that was released by Random House last year:

August Pullman is a regular ten-year-old kid. He does the same things that other regular ten-year-old kids do. But there is one thing about Auggie that is different: he was born with a genetic disorder that essentially wreaked havoc on his face. Nothing is aligned, his mouth is misshapen, his ears look like cauliflower. As it says in the book, the universe was not kind to August Pullman.

The story is told in multiple voices, introducing us to August, his best friend Jack, his sister Via, his friend Summer, his sister’s friend Via, and even Via’s boyfriend Justin. We read about August attending a school for the first time in his life. He had been homeschooled through fourth grade due to the large number of surgeries he’d had to undergo as doctor’s worked to fix some of the major problems caused by his facial deformity. Throughout the story, there is one message that is repeated over and over again. It is my theme for my own classroom, which happens to go along very well with our school theme of being brave. The message is this: Choose kind.

It is a wonderfully simple message! Taken from a quote by Dr. Dwayne W. Dyer, we are told that “when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” This quote is on the bulletin board outside my classroom, along with students personal thoughts on what it means to choose kind. Another quote shared in the book is by J.M. Barrie: “Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?” And finally, one more quote that sums up what I hope each of my students will take away from this story this year and for the rest of their lives. It is known as John Wesley’s Rule:

634297457455957706Wesley's_rule

I know that Wonder was a bit heavy for the start of the year, but I think it really set the tone for our class. My students actually cheered for Auggie at the end of the story! We will be reading a wide variety of other stories in the coming weeks and months, but I hope that each story will allow us to return to this message of kindness over and over again.

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3 responses

  1. I just read this book – loaned to me by one of my seventh graders – and I absolutely loved it! I actually have considered it as a read-aloud for my students, even though I usually try to avoid books with a protagonist younger than they are. It really was a standout.

    September 28, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    • I would use it with 7th graders and focus on the older characters, like Via, Justin, and Miranda. Then point out what they do to help and protect the younger children in the story (like Auggie and Jack).

      September 28, 2013 at 4:25 pm

  2. Pingback: New Bulletin Board |

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