Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a book I have been meaning to read for a few years now. A friend of mine first told me about it a couple years back, texting me a picture of the Natalie Merchant lyrics on the opening page. I have been listening to Natalie Merchant since my mom first bought her album Tigerlily in 1995. The inclusion of her words was enough to make me want to read the book, but very soon after I heard tons of praise for the book. I am so glad to finally have the opportunity to read it myself!
One of my favorite aspects of this book was how well Palacio captured the experiences of childhood, specifically in middle and high school. August’s shock at the beginning of the book when he realizes both his parents have met with Ms. Tushman regarding his admittance at Beecher Prep. This reminded me of when I was younger and one of my teachers had advised my parents to have me tested for Attention Deficit Disorder. Randomly one day, they sat down and asked me a long series of questions which I answered on a scale from one to five. A couple of weeks later they told me the reason for doing that and that they had been meeting with a doctor, who they now wanted me to meet with as well. I remember feeling so befuddled. Three people, two of which were the people I was closest to in the world, had been meeting to discuss me and I was just now finding out about it. Obviously my parents, and August’s, were looking out for my best interest, but it felt like they’d gone behind my back in doing so. August’s reaction mirrors my elementary school feelings.
I really love how the author uses different forms of media (movies, song lyrics, books, etc) through out the story to demonstrate a theme or give something a greater meaning. When I was seventeen I read Perks of Being a Wallflower for the first time and it instantly became one of my favorite books. The protagonist Charlie is a high schooler and the author describes each book he reads during his high school English class. After reading Perks, I read many of the others mentioned (To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, and The Catcher in the Rye). Knowing these books gave Perks a deeper and richer meaning and I got to see a book I already loved in a new light. Palacio does this on a middle grades level by weaving in references to “Star Wars” and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, as well as many quotes from classic literature. I loved getting to see this achieved in a different way.
All in all, I thought Wonder was a great book. Many students in my practicum classroom have read it and I have loved getting to talk with them, as well as teachers’ who have used it for book clubs and read a louds. The same way Perks of Being a Wallflower recommended J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee to me, Natalie Merchant recommended I read Wonder, and it did not disappoint.
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