Book Extensions, Booklists, Books

Hispanic Heritage Month Book Review: Wonder

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August Pullman is a normal kid. He’s very smart and funny. He’s kind and loves deeply. There’s just one problem, one thing hindering him in life—his face. At birth, he suffered from a rare condition that left his facial features rather deformed. People are always surprised when they see August for the first time. They either warm up to him or cannot get past the surface, which is a shame.

bully booklist

But life hasn’t been easy for August. After countless surgeries, hundreds of people freaking out at his face, and his best friend moving away, he is completely content to play at home with this sister Via and their dog Daisy. But like everyone else, August has to learn to face the rest of the world. What does this mean? School. Not home schooling, like he’s done for years with his mom, but real school with real, inconsiderate kids.

At first, August is completely against the idea. It’s horrifying, honestly, But as his parents argue more, after meets a few kids, and has a talk with the school’s dean, he grows more comfortable with the idea and is ready to start, to face all the challenges that come with…dun dun duhhhh…middle school. Middle school is horrible for any kid, let alone one who has something that makes him stand out, and not necessarily in a good way.

And just as expected middle school is hard for August. Kids are mean, and this time they’re intentional about it. It’s not the kind of mean that little kids commit without knowing what they’re doing. These pre-teens know what they’re doing when they are pretending that August has the plague, and if you touch him, you have to wash your hands immediately or you’ll catch it too. They call him names, and when his friend Jack sticks up for him, the rest of the guys avoid both of them, leaving mean notes in their lockers.

But August overcomes every challenge thrown at him with his head held high and the kindness of a thousand kids. His good heart ends up winning people over, and by the end of the year, school isn’t something that August dreads. It’s something to look forward to—to being kinder than is necessary.

Wonder really surprised me. We don’t hear about too many books written about middle school. And the ones that are don’t delve into the confusing, sad, dark parts of these transformative years. Middle school is hard for everyone—kids are trying to figure out who they are, who their friends are, what they like. Popularity is starting to be really important. And most importantly, how you look is crucial. So place this wonderful kid, who’s face frightens a lot of people, into this lion’s den, and it’s a recipe for disaster. But Palacio has created an amazing character that you can’t help but fall in love with. And the novel is so unique in its structure. We don’t just hear from August, but also from the kids that influence him: Via, Justin, Jack, and Miranda. We all see how they feel about him and how he has influenced them.

The message that Mr. Tushman, the principal, preached at the fifth grade graduation really touched me. He read this quote from J.M. Barrie’s The Little White Bird: “Shall we make a new rule of life…always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?” If half the people reading this abide by this new rule, the world will be a so much better place.

Wonder Book Extensions:

With Halloween coming up, let’s take a look at all of August’s costumes to give you all some ideas for this year:
A.     An astronaut (always a classic)
B.     Boba Fett (for you Star Wars fans out there)
C.     A Mummy (perfect for Halloween)
D.    The Scream (a classic painting fit into a terror-inducing costume)
*What’s your favorite costume?

mummy costume
Chocolate Milk:
This is one of August’s favorite dishes. But rather than just buying chocolate milk from the store, why not try your hand at homemade? Here’s what you’ll need:
1.     Milk, of course!
2.     Cocoa Powder
3.     Powdered sugar
4.     Vanilla
Mix all these ingredients and serve it up. To make it even more like August’s whip it around with a whisk to make it a little frothy then add a grilled cheese, and you’re good to go!

Being Kind
The idea of being kind is a constant motif throughout Wonder. Summer is truly the only character who is, right from the beginning, kind to August without question. We understand that being kind to people who look different from you or who act different can be nerve wracking and off putting. But being kind is the one thing that makes this world a great place. Here are some ideas to get you started.
a.     Say hello to someone who’s looking a little blue or a little lonely.
b.     Sit by someone new at lunch
c.      Give someone you don’t normally speak to a compliment.
d.     Smile more often

Check our my Kindness Booklist here for more ideas on being Kind.

books about kindness
The Truth about Bullying:
Bullying is a real problem in our schools, whether we choose to accept this or not. Schools say they are taking preventative measures, but there are always kids who slip through the cracks. This article provides the facts about bullying. Please take a look and educate yourself.
The Truth About Bullying at School

And this is what you can do if you or someone you know is a victim of bullying. Don’t just be bystanders. And don’t be silent if this is happening to you.

Bullying-What to Do

Check out my long list of anti-bullying booklists broken down by grade:

bully booklist grades 3-5

**some of these links are affiliate links.

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