Can I say ‘book love’? There has been a book making the rounds in the Lower School over the past year. It has a pale blue cover, with a sketch of a face with one eye. It does not look as if it might appeal but it does. I think that the element of surprise is becoming the theme in my blog posts because I am surprised, again, by how much of an impact this book has had on my students, teachers, and me.
I am pretty sure you can guess which book I am talking about: Wonder by R.J. Palacio. If you would like a taste of what the story entails, watch this Random House Children’s Publishers U.K. trailer. The trailer gives you a sneak peak into the world of Auggie, a boy who starts school for the first time, in Grade 5. He has been home-schooled for his whole life until now because of the way his face was formed and the resulting surgeries that have overtaken his life. His home is a loving environment and he is a boy who truly demonstrates good character in all he does. I love his character in this book.
This is a great read aloud book. It captures the rhythms of the school year beautifully because of the influence of Auggie’s wonderful teacher. It works well in school libraries for these reasons. It is also a good teacher. There are moments of great courage, friendship, but also betrayal and the resulting heartache. Throughout the book is a great lesson in empathy and good character. This is a book that has left adults crying at the end – no joke.
The question in my title has not been answered yet. How do you follow a book such as this one? It is a hard one to pin down. Readers of the book will agree with me in saying that it seems to stand apart from other genres. Here is an attempt at a list of books to turn to. Thanks to my public librarian, colleagues and friends who I have spoken with about where one would go next.
- Joey Pigza, by Jack Gantos ~ Joey is troubled by his ADHD. It gets him into trouble, and it doesn’t help that his medication is not the best prescription nor that his home is not the most stable.
- Because of Mr. Terupt, by Rob Buyea ~ Mr. Terupt is a wonderful teacher who guides his group of students through the year. What happens when you lose the teacher you have come to rely on? What lessons does that teach you?
- Loser, by Jerry Spinelli ~ A rather sad book to add to this list because the main character never seems to be able to shake being the ‘loser’, but also a book with many lessons to learn from.
- Schooled, by Gordon Korman ~ If you were home-schooled in an environment that only highlighted the optimistic values of the hippies in the 1960s, you might also be as idealistic as Capricorn. He goes to school for the first time, just as Auggie did, and is made to be the object of many jokes which backfire because of his good values.
- Iqbal, by Francesca D’Adamo ~Iqbal is a child labourer in a carpet factory who realizes that he and his fellow workers will never be free unless he starts to stand up for them. A powerful read about how children can make change.
I hope this list helps as a first step to adding more books to your own lists of books that share the same themes. I think I might just go back to rereading my copy of that blue book that started it all.
Lower School, Crescent School, Toronto
I would add Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. I read it directly after I read Wonder, and I was struck by the similarity in theme and emotional reaction.
This is a great post and very practical as my students do ask for read-alikes for Wonder. I would add Rules by Cynthia Lord. A very poignant depiction of an adolescent navigating all the ups and downs of life with a younger brother who is autistic and making a new friend who is a paraplegic.