“Thank you God for good books to read,” London prayed in our before bed family routine.
And the good book she was talking about on this particular evening was the book called Wonder.
Actually, the specific book was a sequel – or companion book really – to Wonder called Auggie & Me.
We started with Wonder – maybe a month or so ago. It’s a novel that’s been out for more than five years I think but now that there’s about to be a movie released based on the story, it’s reappearing on the front shelves of book stores. I sort of hate that I am only now hearing about the book so I have to read a version with the sticker proclaiming “about to be a major motion picture”. (It’s a little funny we’re still calling movies “major motion pictures”.) Anyway, don’t let the fact that it’s about to be a major motion picture keep you from reading this novel. Don’t let its current popularity turn you away from its pages.
I could not possibly do justice to the work of art that is Wonder – and also Auggie & Me – through this simple review.
Books are just words – right? They’re just stories and ideas and collections of bits and pieces.
But you don’t know much if you don’t know story matters. If you haven’t seen the power of story, you haven’t seen much. Words add up and words change people.
Wonder is the sort of book that changes you. I honestly don’t want to tell you much of anything about this book – except to tell you to read it.
I guess I’ll tell you this much — The story centers around a boy named August who has been homeschooled all of his life because he was receiving multiple surgeries to try to correct facial anomalies with which he was born. He’s entering fifth grade and traditional school for the first time. It’s a book divided into the voices of different characters in the story, including August and his sister and August’s classmates.
It’s beautifully written. The voices of each characters are clear and well-defined and multifaceted.
There’s a slight bit of potty humor I suppose – fifth grade boys, you know – but it’s all part of the story and was fine to me.
I also love the fact that it was partially inspired by a song I used to love by Natalie Merchant, a musician I listened to ad nauseam back in college and those surrounding years.
I read the entire book out loud to the kids and am half way through reading Auggie & Me out loud now. There were times I had to stop reading because I was laughing. And there were times, like tonight’s chapter from Julian’s point of view, that I could barely read because I was crying.
There’s so much good in both of these books. But I’d say, simply put, the best good – the most important piece of the puzzle – my favorite takeaway, is empathy. Empathy. Thinking through someone else’s perspective. Walking in their shoes. Understanding the whys and the hows of their brain and their actions and their heart. And it’s not just middle school boys and girls who could improve their lives and their outlooks with a generous dose of empathy – it’s moms and dads and human beings too.
The book is a work of art. It’s clever and funny and not pandering or whiny. It’s important. I think it’s a book that matters.
The ideas and the stories in the novel have come up in conversation more than once when the kids and I talk abut certain situations or feelings or emotions.
I liked it so much I bought a copy in hardback. (I generally borrow all the books from the library. Yes, despite the fines.)