I picked this book up because I saw it as a recommendation when I was researching another book and it happened to be on the new books display at my library this week. I’m glad I did.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio (2012, Alfred A. Knopf, ISBN 978-0-375-86902-0)
This isn’t a review so much as a book recommendation. I can’t say I’m an expert in the topic (a ten-year-old boy born with “mandibulofacial dysostosis…complicated by a hemifacial microsomia” (both of which involve visibly severe structural problems of the face) attends school for the first time after being homeschooled through fourth grade due to frequent surgeries and illnesses as a result of his congenital problems), but as a parent and a former fifth grade teacher, this book struck me as an important read for upper elementary students. It’s both funny and heartbreaking as Auggie, his older sister, and a selection of their friends and classmates pick up narration (often overlapping part of what the previous narrator discussed) of Auggie’s fifth grade year at Beecher Prep and his struggles to find his way to be ordinary in a world where no one else seems to be able to see him that way. The subject matter, although heavy, is dealt with–in my mind, at least–delicately yet authentically. I read it way too fast, so I know I probably missed a lot of the nuances, but there were several parts where I just had to put the book down and cry. So, yeah, despite not having the experiences necessary to be a real judge of whether this book is true-to-life (although the reviews I’ve read from people who should know say it is), I have to recommend it. I believe you won’t look at anyone quite the same way again.
(Please, if you’ve read the book and have something you feel needs to be said about it, comment below, especially if you’ve read it with your child or if you’re the parent of a child facing this kind of struggle. I’d love to hear what you think.)
UPDATE (August 28, 2012): A friend of mine (whose son was born with craniosynostosis that required surgery and a temporary helmet) posted about the Children’s Craniofacial Association‘s September 2012 “Craniofacial Acceptance Month” on her Facebook page. This site and the FACES: The National Craniofacial Association site share photographs and information about a variety of craniofacial disorders as well as ways people can help these organizations offer support to the families of children affected. If this book moved you, perhaps you might choose to support one of these associations as a way to reach out!