Wonder Book Review
A good book keeps you entertained. A true book makes you think. But a truly good book makes you introspect. It leaves a lasting impact on you and gives you a lesson for life. Wonder by R. J. Palacio is one such truly good book that I would recommend for young and old alike.
There are children in this story. Different types of children. Some are beautiful inside out, others are not. And then there is a boy who suffers from a severe craniofacial anomaly. There are also parents in this story. Different types of parents. Some parents are caring and empowering and encouraging, while others are blinded by love. There are also siblings in this book. And there are teachers too. Teachers, who, along with the children, teach us readers too, a thing or two about life!
It is a story of a child who begins school for the first time in his life in fifth grade. It charts one year of this child’s extraordinary life, giving us a glimpse into the perfect world that is more often than not made up of not so perfect people. It is told completely from the perspective of the different children who form an integral part of the story; and perhaps because it is a story told by children in their own voice, that we adults can read it without being too conscious – because this story, more than anything else, is really about humans, age no bar. The emotions the children feel, are ours too. The problems they face, are ours too. Even their reactions are our reactions, but as adults, we have only learnt to disguise them well; and the children haven’t. The love, the hate, the criticism, the judgements passed – we have all been there done that, and continue to do it even as adults. So I feel, this story really hits too close to the heart, somewhere.
Here's one book that teaches empathy like no other book I have read. It doesn’t preach. It just tells you a story. But when the lesson hits home, it hits you right where it hurts the most! We have all been in Auggie's place at times and we have also been in Julian's place too. most of our lives we are Jack; and very rarely but sometimes we are Summer and Olivia and Miranda and most of all Mr. Tushman! What we haven't ever done though is taken Mr. Browne's precepts seriously. But its high time we start doing that. In fact, Wonder has given me my very own precept: kindness comes from the heart and is felt by the heart; anything that isn't is not kindness.
The real world is clearly not as black and white as in a book or a story but the truth is, we encounter all these situations in life some time or the other’ and how we face these situations, do we show courage or do we back out; do we show kindness or take the easy way out of being afraid and hence hate? There is a reference in Wonder to a line from J.M. Barrie’s The Little White Bird that goes: “…always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” And that I think is this beautiful thought that is my biggest takeaway from this book. Like Mr. Tushman says, after all; “when not sure how to behave, it is always better to err on the side of kindness,” isn’t it?
Reading this book as a parent, there was another important lesson that I took away from this magnificent book: your child will have as much courage as you give him as a parent. Auggie thinks he is normal because his parents gave him that strength to feel normal at all times. Olivia could confess her true feelings to her mother because the lines of communication were always open between the parents and the children, even (or rather especially) when Olivia turned into a teenager. Auggie’s parents loved him, unconditionally; and weren’t afraid to tell him. that gave Auggie the confidence to face the world.
Julian’s parents, on the other hand, kept making excuses for his wrong behaviour, which is why it took him such a long time to understand the truth.
Wonder is what you get when a strong story comes together with the ability of the writer to establish a strong emotion connect with the readers. It teaches life-lessons in an easy manner, so much so, that I can have lengthy discussions with eight and nine year olds who have read it! And believe me they can discuss! Because the story is written in such a simple language that kids can really relate and understand.
This is a beautiful story about not so beautiful feelings that people have sometimes and a perfect revelation for a lot of imperfect souls! A definite recommendation for anyone nine years and above; especially adults, who are honest enough to open up to their feelings.