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Wonder

Can a child with a facial deformity make it through middle school? This beautiful novel for middle-grade readers tells the story of a remarkable boy who does more than survive. 

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Wonder
By R.J. Palacio
Knopf
320 pp.
Age range: 8 to 12 years

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August Pullman is pretty much petrified. Born with a facial deformity that’s already required 27 surgeries and has made school an impossibility, Auggie has always studied at home. But this year he’s headed to fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and even his dad secretly worries they are sending him off like a “lamb to the slaughter.”

Fortunately for Auggie, his new teachers are remarkable. His English teacher encourages students to think about their personal precepts, their rules for important things. The first note the teacher writes on the chalkboard is his own September precept: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

The school’s principal, the amusingly-named Mr. Tushman, is possibly the wisest school administrator in the history of children’s literature. At their introduction to the school in late summer, he invites the Pullman family into his office and introduces Auggie to some of his classmates. His assistant assures his mom that they will take really good care of her son. At Beecher Prep, August Pullman seems to be in mostly good hands.

But of course, there are some who can’t quite decide what to make of a kid with ears like tiny cauliflowers and a mouth that doesn’t chew properly. No one sits with him at lunch. He’s called Freak, Monster, Freddy Krueger, Gross-out. Classmates concoct a cruel game of “plague,” refusing to touch the boy, giving him a wide berth as they pass him in the halls. Hateful notes appear in lockers of students who’ve looked beyond his face to find a funny, smart friend.

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