When Wonder by R.J. Palacio found its way to my desk, I was disappointed. The book was not disappointing; the timing was.
I had just spent months scouring library collections and wading through new releases for books to include in a bibliography about physical disabilities with a focus on books that encouraged kids to look beyond physical differences. The bibliography turned into an article, Just Like You: Helping Young People Understand Disabilities Through Books, that was published in the September 2011 issue of Book Links. It covered picture books to titles of interest to teens, including some that probably seem like odd choices like Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox and Handiest Things in the World by Andrew Clements. I hope my commentary made clear the way I use these books to open conversations with kids about my disability and other physical differences. Wonder would have been perfect for the list, if only I’d received it a month or so earlier!
Wonder is the story of August Pullman, who, in many ways, is an ordinary kid about to start fifth grade. At least, he feels ordinary. But, as he puts it, “I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.” Augie was born with a significant facial deformity that sets him apart from ordinary no matter how he feels on the inside. I really appreciated this nuanced look at how it feels to look different when you don’t feel different.
There is a lot to think about and discuss in this book, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with young readers (and other librarians!) when it comes out in February 2012.