August (Auggie) Pullman is different from other ten year old kids.  Born with a rare congenital condition resulting in startling facial deformities, he has a not so ordinary face that invites curiosity and criticism, as well as compassion.  He leaves the bubble of his loving and safe home-schooled environment to attend fifth grade at Beecher Prep in New York City.  For one year, readers follow Auggie as he stumbles through the minefields of adolescence: vulnerable in a school culture where being different is an oddity not easily forgiven.  The 2014 Fox Cities Reads selection of "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio for its community read leading up to this week's Fox Cities Book Festival is a true winner.  A glimpse into the world of Auggie Pullman presents multiple opportunities for discussion between a community of parents and children, teachers and students, teens, preteens, and their peers.  

Auggie takes us down the hallways that echo with whispers and into Ms. Petosa's homeroom where the desk next to him remains empty.  We join him for lunch where he and his new friend Summer are stared upon as they sit alone, at a long table, in a crowded room.  It is here at Beecher Prep where he dodges enemies and forges friendships in spite of being called names like "Zombie Kid" and having a school recess game named after him called the "Plague".  Soon we understand why he hid his face inside an astronaut helmet for years or why wearing a mask so he can blend in with everyone else makes Halloween his favorite holiday.  Though saddened by the reactions of others, August does not feel sorry for himself.  Instead, the fifth grader returns to school every day; ultimately winning over the hearts of his classmates and teachers with his sense of humor and his humble acceptance of their natural curiosity.     

The book evokes much emotion and is at different times funny, warm, heartrending, insightful, and sad.  While "Wonder" is a worthy exploration of Auggie's experiences, the author also includes reactions to the young boy's circumstances from the view of various people involved in his life.  Palacio tenderly shows readers how Auggie triumphs over his own adversity with the help of loving parents, his protective sister Via, a compassionate school principal in Mr. Tushman, fellow classmates who dare to be his friend, and an excellent attitude.  The Fox Cities Reads author should be commended for writing a meaningful story and introducing us to a character who will remain on our minds and in our hearts for a very long time after the 2014 Fox Cities Book Festival has ended.    







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