I’ve got your answer.
It’s a story about a boy, Auggie, with multiple facial deformities. Until the story begins, he has been kept out of traditional schools by his parents, primarily for fear of how he will be treated.
Auggie is never pictured so readers can only draw a picture in their mind of what they think he might look like based on story clues.
“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” R.J. Palacio
The books begins from his point of view. Then it jumps around to hear from his sister, his classmates, and others whose lives are also affected by him. The chapters are small one to a few page snippets.
I love that that the struggle to handle bullying and difference is real in this book, but we can still choose kind.
His sister is honest about not wanting him to come see her play because since entering high school no one has associated her with her special needs brother. Her parents struggle with how to give their very smart boy wings while still wanting to protect him from pain is powerfully felt. Friends, who begin the year we find out asked to be nice to him, evolve into loving Auggie on their own for his humor, and intelligence, and joy he adds to their life, and the reader gets to feel that emotional transformation.
As you read, these points of view mingle into wrestling with how to live life with integrity when the world is confusing and hurtful. And physical deformity or not, that is something we ALL face.
Grace told me to read this book because her art teacher was reading it to them. Just typing that makes me cry because what a special lady to gift her students with a life-changing message on her own will. Perhaps my favorite part was Grace telling me her art teacher cried while reading it to them, showing them that hurt and struggle are real for adults too.
When Auggie starts mainstream school in 5th grade at Beecher Prep his teacher gives them a precept each month to think about. October's was “YOUR DEEDS ARE YOUR MONUMENTS” and Auggie writes this-
I was hooked.
When the school year is done we, the readers, take a seat at graduation. While there, Mr. Tushman, the middle school director quotes Henry Ward Beecher: “Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right use of strength…He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts.”
Challenge and tribulation are part of the human experience. It is inescapable. But do we respond by blending in or do we choose to stand out? Do we join the bully-er or do we risk “cool” to extend love and become special in our own way?
This book is one every upper elementary school child right on up through the ages should read.
It’s the best book I’ve read yet this year.
And as the school draws near an end, I will draw on Mr. Tushman’s words with my kids.
We all should.
Be brave. Choose kindness.
Read this book.
Read this book.
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