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!

Youth Book Review: What a Wonder!

Today’s Favorite Friday post is a Youth Book Review written by Abby, who is a 6th grader from our Gracepoint Minneapolis church. She writes newspaper articles under the pen name Mr. Sketch (you’ll have to ask her why).

wonder book coverWonder, by R.J Palacio. This book truly lives up to its name. Wonder is a book that you can never put down. I recently just read it again and it reminded me how well it was written and how it’s so true to real life.

The book is unique in the way that it switches from different people’s points of view. In this book a boy named August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity (known as Treacher Collins Syndrome). Auggie’s condition is like a 1 in 50,000 chance of being born with it. When he finally goes to school with other kids for 5th grade, he faces big problems. Bullies are a HUGE one. Yet, he’s kind to everyone (even bullies who threaten to hurt him) and really tries to shrug off the taunts and teases. He goes through so much and he reminds us to persevere and never give up.

There are many supporting characters in the book. Jack Will is Auggie’s new best friend. He is challenged by going from being in the popular and “cool crowd” to hanging out with Auggie, which is lower than uncool. He’s brave and I admire that about him. He chooses to be with Auggie and even punches a bully because he was teasing Auggie. Summer Dawson is a girl who sat at a table with Auggie on the first day of school and has been every day since. She would fit perfectly into the” cool crowd” and they even ask her to join them. She says no because Auggie needs a friend. She takes a stand for what’s right. Julian Albans, popular kid, in the “cool crowd” bullies August Pullman. Julian is Auggie’s biggest bully. He calls him names and make the whole grade turn against Auggie. But when it starts to get old and nobody likes him anymore, things change.

Auggie’s English teacher, Mr. Browne, has a precept for his class every month. A precept is like a motto. One of his precepts that constantly appear in the book is: “When you have the choice to be right or kind, choose kind.” And to all those kids and people who were kind to Auggie, they truly took that precept seriously.

Wonder is an awesome book. It is currently my favorite book. After reading it the first time, I started writing out the book by hand. I loved it that much! I recommend Wonder to ages 10 and up, so like 5th grade and up.  5th grade is a really good time to read it because you can kind of relate to the characters in the book! I think the lesson I learned was that a person’s face does not mean that they’re different from everybody else inwardly. You will never look at a person with disabilities the same way again. I encourage everyone to read the book.

choose kindEmily here: As a teacher, I can echo Abby Mr. Sketch’s sentiments and attest to the power of Wonder. I loved it personally, but this is exactly the kind of book I’d love. But in the last few years, I have seen every kind of kid and adult, even the “I hate reading” kind, love this book. It’s been a “gateway book” for many. I agree that it is right for about 5th grade and up. And by “up” I do mean all the way up! It is definitely a book for young and old alike. This book speaks to the power of a human story. Kids are drawn to this story without knowing what empathy means, but so many take the “Choose Kind” pledge that has swept across schools and libraries. And it has opened up discussions in classrooms about kindness, and even impacted the way kids treat one another. If you have a 5th or 6th grader, it’s likely your child’s language arts teacher will do a unit based on the book. This is a wonderful novel for conversations about what it means to be a friend, what courage is, what it means to “be yourself,” what taking a stand is, and there are so many precepts sprinkled throughout the book that you can write about or discuss.

This book has become a “franchise” of sorts, with 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts; the Wonder Journal, filled with inspiring quotes to think about and respond to; and Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories, a combined book of 3 shorter stories previously only available in e-book format. They tell stories from the perspectives of Julian (the bully), Christopher (Auggie’s oldest friend), and Charlotte (a new friend from school).

Have you read Wonder? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you agree that it is as wonderful as Abby and I think? If not, has this review prompted you to give the book a try? 🙂