"'If I looked like that,' said the Julian voice, kind of
laughing, 'I swear to God, I'd put a hood over my face every day.'
'I've thought about this a lot,' said the second mummy, sounding
serious, 'and I really think...if I looked like him, seriously, 'I
think that I'd kill myself."
I am once again in the middle of at attempt at cleaning and
organizing the old home space. So far, after organizing my storage
shed, I've cleared enough living room space to accomodate a tree and
scrubbed the floor of the kitchen and recycling corner. Now I'm
giving Orono librarians a break by reading through my own books to see
which to keep and which to donate to the next book sale. I'm even
finding some worthy of reviewing.
One of my most amazing finds was R. J. Palacio's Wonder, source
of the quote with which I started this review. It deals with candor
and sensitivity with a topic that all too often carries a didactic or
saccharine overtone--children who have very visible differences. I
think one reason that it succeeds so admirably is that a number of
people narrate the chapters, conveying the voices of the protagonist
and family members and friends.
Auggie (August) was born with genetic very obvious facial
differences. Even though his mother home schooled him, he has had
enough experience with the outside his family world to know that
people meeting him the first time often startle and say something
cruel or walk away in disgust. He does have friends. But when his
mother decides that it's time for him to attend regular school where
he'll be surrounded by starers it's more than a little scary.
This book covers that first year of official school from the
perspective of Auggie, big sister Olivia, and people in their social
worlds. Auggie has no idea what to expect and how to act. Olivia is
starting a new different school, loves her brother but doesn't want to
be defined by him. Jack and Julian react to being chosen as potential
friends for Auggie by the principal in drastically different ways.
This is an excellent book for kids who are somehow different and
their siblings and parents. I'd also put it on the reading list for
teachers, principals, and especially guidance counselors.
On a personal note, being the sib of a sister with brain damage, I
related very strongly to Olivia. I know what it's like being defined
in reference to a sibling. When I was in college it felt amazing to
be seen as myself, not someone's sister. I was popular and lively and
happy. One night when I was talking to my mother on the phone she
said she was thinking of Harriet going there. In retrospect I feel
that it would not have been a good fit for her. This was the rational
arguement I made. Inwardly I was afraid of losing the refuge where I
was a person in my own right. Only I felt immense guilt because I did
and do love Harriet. Olivia helped me realize that these mixed
feelings are normal.
A great big shout out goes out to kids and adults with differences and
their friends and family members.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod