Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wonder ( an Author Meeting and Book Review)

On Monday I had the opportunity to meet R.J. Palacio, the author of Wonder, at my favorite bookshop, The Voracious Reader. The Voracious Reader was one of 40 sites selected to be a Children's Book Week host, and I found out this author would be at the store days after I read the book.

If you haven't read Wonder, I suggest putting it on your list. Have tissues ready for the last 100 pages because you cry a lot. Not only for sad parts, but for the incredibly uplifting ending. Wonder is a book about kindness, about choosing to be kind when it isn't easy, and you learn this through a story about a boy named August, who is born with extreme facial differences. The story is initially narrated by August and then through his sister and the various friends he makes during his first year in middle school after being homeschooled through fourth grade.

Ms. Palacio told how she came up with the story, when her boys were eleven and three. She had given her oldest money to buy them milkshakes and sat down outside the ice cream store with her three year old, who was in a stroller. At some point she realized that the little girl sitting next to her had a facial difference and she panicked, afraid that her young son might react in fear if he saw her, afraid that her oldest might say something when he came out (even though he should know better.), afraid because she didn't want to hurt the young girl's feelings. So she thought she might edge her young son away before anything happened. Of course, that was when all her fears happened at once. Her younger son noticed and started to scream and cry. Her oldest came out and as she tried to steer him away he asked why they had to leave so quickly. And then he lost his hold on the milkshakes and they spilled all over. In that moment, she heard the little girl's mother quietly tell her daughter and her sister(?) it was time to go. She was embarrassed and sad for the little girl and for her mother, who must face reactions like this a hundred times a day. She went home with the story beginning in her head and after hearing the song Wonder on the radio that night, she decided she would write a story about a child like the little girl.

I was especially struck by descriptions of the story's English teacher, Mr. Browne. He reminded me so much of my own favorite high school English teacher. My teacher also happened to have the name Mr. Browne. I told this to Ms. Palacio when I came up to have my book signed after her talk. It turns out we went to the same high school, five years before me! She did, indeed, model her character after our high school English teacher! Isn't that amazing? I hope she manages to contact him. He was one of those teachers that inspires, the kind of teacher I hope I am to my children.

1 comment:

Inner Elder said...

Tina, That is so cool about Mr. Browne. Thanks for the background info on Wonder. Love, Mom

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