From the Cover of Wonder by R.J Palacio:
“August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial difference that prevented him from going to a mainstream school – until now. He’s about to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid, then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite his appearances?”
Transfiguring Adoption awarded this book 4 Hoots out of 5 based on how useful it will be for a foster/adoptive family. [Learn more about our Hoot grading system here]
What Our Family Thought:
The target audience for this book seems to be the general public. However, the themes of feeling isolated, bullied, and other such themes tend to hit close to home for many foster and adoptive children. Transfiguring Adoption believes this book would be best suited for children ages 11 and older. The book has become a pop culture sensation and is even now a successful motion picture. With such popularity this book will more likely be something that children will want to read and discuss as their peers have more than likely read the book as well. Those considering this book for their elementary school child should note that it is a chapter book and as the characters are in the fifth grade dealing with issues surrounding this age range.
This story centers around August (a.k.a. Auggie) Pullman who is a fifth grade boy who was born with a condition which left his face severely deformed. Through his early years Auggie was homeschooled but for various reasons his parents make the difficult decision of putting Auggie in mainstream school. Naturally, being bullied, made fun of, and constantly asked about his deformity are major themes of the book.
The author has chosen not to simply tell you the tale of Auggie through his eyes but takes the opportunity to advance the tale to a certain point. Then the reader is taken two steps back to see the story from a different character’s eyes to advance you slightly further in the storyline before taking you two steps back for a new character’s view. The different points of view seem to be an excellent way for the reader and a family to gain insight or begin a conversation about the reasoning behind someone’s actions.
Teenage adoptee and former foster youth, Jasmine Fink, assisted during this review. She found that foster/adoptive children would be able to relate to the isolation and feelings of being unable to conform to the social norm. Jasmine noted that while some people might scoff at a foster child or adoptee about aligning their feelings with Auggie’s physical deformity, Jasmine assured Transfiguring Adoption that the struggles and emotions are very much similar.
Transfiguring Adoption did not give this book full marks mainly because it did not deal directly with foster care or adoption. However, the story was well executed and presented several situations for which families can begin healthy conversations about emotions and motives for behavior.
Any foster or adoptive family with an eleven year old or older would do well to make this book a center piece of conversation in their home.
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It’s Your Turn:
Part One Questions:
- How did August feel getting the tour around his new school?
- Do foster or adoptive kids ever feel like Auggie when going to a new school? Explain.
- How did Auggie feel about the way he looked when eating?
- What is one way you look or do something that you wish you could change?
- What is the “cheese touch?” How did it make August feel?
- When do you feel like other people treat you like the “cheese touch?”
- How would you feel if you were August at the end of Part One?
Part Two Questions:
- Do you think Via feels jealous about the attention August receives?
- Does Via love August?
- Do mom and dad love Via?
- Do you ever find it hard to believe that people care about you?
Part Three Questions:
- Why does Summer befriend August?
- What do Summer and August talk about?
- What are three things that friends talk about? What about close/best friends?
- Why don’t the other kids want her to be friends with Auggie?
- How does she respond to them?
- How do you know that someone is your friend?
- What are three things that friends do for each other?
Part Four Questions:
- How does Jack seem to feel about his family not being as wealthy as some of the other families at school?
- Why do you think Jack said mean things about August at Halloween? Do those reasons make it okay?
- Why did Jack punch Julian? Was this a good way to handle the situation?
- How did Jack and August become friends again?
- Did Jack really feel bad about what he had done? How do you know?
- How does someone ask for forgiveness or tell someone they are sorry?
- What do you say when you accept someone’s apology?
Part Five Questions:
- Why do you think Justin likes Via and Auggie’s family so much?
- What do you think makes their family nice?
- Justin mentions, “Olivia’s family tell each other ‘i love you’ all the time.” Why do you think that is important to him? How might you feel if no one ever told you “I love you,”?
- How does Justin protect Jack?
- Justin knows that August has difficulties in life. How does Justin feel August has a good life?
- You may have some difficult situations. What things are going well in your life?
Part Six Questions:
- Why do you think kids at school were getting tired of “The War?”
- Why was Auggie so stressed about the hearing aid? Was it as bad as he imagined?
- Why did Auggie get so mad at dinner? Why did he think the situation was about him? Was it?
- What does it mean when people say someone is “self-conscious?”
- Can you think of a time in your family when someone got upset or angry when the situation wasn’t even about them? What are you “self-conscious” about?
Part Seven Questions:
- Why did Miranda make up lies about her life at camp?
- Do you think foster or adoptive kids ever make up stories about their life? Have you ever done that?
- Why do you think Miranda felt comfortable and safe in Via’s home?
- What things make you feel comfortable and safe in a home?
Part Eight Questions:
- Why was Auggie nervous about the camping trip?
- What makes you nervous about sleeping in a new room? Being in a dark room?
- What did Auggie like about camp?
- Why did the other guys from Breecher Prep help Jack and Auggie?
- How can you tell that mom, dad, and Via were worried about Auggie?
- When you have to deal with a new situation or “scary” circumstance, people that care about you are just as nervous for you. How can you tell that mom was nervous for Auggie before the trip? How can you tell that mom, dad, and Via were concerned for Auggie after the trip?
- Do your parents or foster parents worry about you? How can you tell? How do they answer these questions?
- Does it feel good or bad to have people worry about you?
- How would people say you’re a wonder?