Youth Book Review: A “Wonder”-ful Companion Novel

It’s been a spell since our last Youth Book Review, which was a smash hit, and lots of people ran out and read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Since writing the novel in 2012, Palacio has written several shorter pieces that were previously only available in e-book format. Earlier this year, all three “chapters” were published together in the form of Auggie & Me.

If you’ve already read the e-books, you’ve already read Auggie & Me. 🙂  Just to clarify, this is *not* a sequel. There’s a whole ‘nother thing that has emerged in the book publishing world, in the form of the “companion novel”. It’s set in the same world, and in roughly the same time period as the events of the original novel, but tells the story from another character’s point of view, or the fuller story of a supporting character who was in the original book, as a sort of parallel story. Its close cousins are the 0.5 story (prequel), or the 1.5 story (the story published as an e-book while you wait for book 2 to come out in a series). But I digress.

Today’s book review comes from a 7th grader from our Gracepoint Los Angeles church. As she is the sole 7th grader at our LA church plant, her identity is not a secret. Nevertheless, because pen names make everything more fun (see: Mr. Sketch), she writes under the nom de plume Number Two, which is a literary allusion to Pencilla’s code name in The Mysterious Benedict SocietyGet it? Number Two…Pencilla?

Number Two’s natural ebullience* comes through in her review, and it makes me wish that I had added my name to the Book Waiting List for the book before setting it loose among the Bibliopolis middle school patrons!

auggie and me coverI wanted to read Auggie and Me by R.J. Palacio because I absolutely loved Wonder. When I saw that there was another book relating to it, I immediately wanted to read it. In the three novellas, Auggie is more of a side character than the main man. The three main characters are Julian (the bully), Christopher (Auggie’s old best friend), and Charlotte (Auggie’s “welcome buddy”). Each story is told from one of their perspective.

The first story is “The Julian Chapter”. If you have read Wonder, you know how Julian is like. He’s the kind of kid who doesn’t like changes, so he tries to turn things back to normal by making Auggie feel ashamed of himself, in hopes of him leaving the school. In Wonder, I really didn’t like Julian at all and he just made me so mad. But in this chapter, Julian finally comes to his senses and realizes what he has done to Auggie. His big realization comes when he says that sometimes we hate the things that we’re afraid of. For him, it’s Auggie. Over the summer after thinking a lot, he finally decides to apologize to Auggie and wants to start things over with him. He makes a precept that says: “Sometimes it’s good to start over.” Towards the end of this chapter, I kind of felt for him more and could see what he was going through.

The second story is called “Pluto”. It kind of peeks into Auggie’s life before the events of Wonder, when he still had his best friend Christopher, before he moved away. When Chris moved, he and Auggie slowly grew apart. Before reading this I didn’t really know how Chris was like but as I continued to read it, he became a very relatable character especially since he is in middle school. When he went to his new school he realized that it’s hard to have a friend that looks so different. So Chris decides to find some normal friends who people won’t stare at all the time and ignores Auggie for a little while. But then something happens (you’ll have to read it to find out what!) and Chris realizes that having a true good friend is worth the extra effort.

The third and final story is “Shingaling”. It’s based on the perspective of Charlotte Cody. She is the “welcome buddy” for Auggie and is kind of known as a “goody-goody”. I remember I didn’t like her that much in Wonder because she seemed “too nice”, but as she enters middle school she struggles with popularity and friend problems and I was able to understand her a little better. As she continues to try to help Auggie out and be a good friend to him, she encounters problems of her own (which you’ll find out about when you read!). Through all this she realizes that doing what is right is not always popular. This novella was probably my favorite because I was able to relate to it most.   

As you can see, through the three characters’ different perspectives you get to see how they feel about Auggie. I really liked this book, because it described some things that I would’ve never known was going on in their lives. After I finished reading, I felt like I finally understood everyone’s background and was able to understand more of them rather than making quick judgments by the little that I heard in the previous book. I would recommend this book to “Wonder lovers” or anyone in 6th grade and up**. This book shows that being a good friend is hard but is worth it. And even though you may encounter problems, just stick through and if you have a good friend to rely on it will make it so much more easier. Like Charlotte says: “It is not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”

Have you read Auggie & Me, or any of the stories separately? If so, which is your favorite? 


*ebullience (n): the quality of being cheerful and full of energy; exuberance.

**All of the Bibliopolis middle schoolers who have read this thus far say that it’s definitely for middle and up. I trust them!

Reading Testimonial: This “One’s” for Me!

Today’s “Reader Testimonial” comes from Irene, new mom, staff with Koinonia Berkeley at Gracepoint Berkeley church, and as you’ll find out, a social worker by day.

OnefortheMurphys_low-ResJust wanted to share a bit about my experience reading the book One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. I am not much of a reader. I don’t read unless it’s mandatory, for the most part. But Emily suggested this book for me as a professional recommendation.  And it had me in tears as I read.

Working as a social worker in the child welfare system, this story about a child navigating her way through the system really struck home. The author was able to give light to the child’s emotional challenges and the reality of being in such a painful and tumultuous situation. The story helped give voice to the many clients I have worked with over the years. And it helped me to experience a renewed excitement for reading. As a professing non-reader, I was encouraged by the suggestion that fit my interest. And it was an easy read, and so engaging that I just couldn’t put it down!

Emily here: This is a favorite among many readers, young and old alike. And despite the semi-girly cover, and the female protagonist, this is a favorite among young men too! Almost everyone who has read this book has cried or gotten choked up. This is classified as a “middle grades” book, so it’s appropriate for 5th grade and up…all the way up! 🙂

For fans of One for the Murphys, Hunt’s newest novel is called Fish in a Tree, which is also awesome! It’s also awesome that it is available at Coscto, though of course, here at Bibliopolis, we do try to support independent bookstores, such as Books Inc. 🙂

Have you read One for the Murphys? If so, what did you think? Any youth out there want to write a youth book review for Fish in a Tree?