Middle-School Novel Celebrates Human Kindness
One of the best books I have read recently is Wonder by R.J. Palacio. A recommendation by youth librarians, the book champions kindness in a way that somehow manages not to be preachy. It also reflects the value of loving one's family and not judging people by appearance.
The star of the novel is August ("Auggie") Pullman, age 10, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities. His mother homeschooled him until fifth grade; as the novel opens he is about to enter a private middle school in Manhattan. The novel covers Auggie's turbulent first year, as he struggles to be seen as just another kid. He is gentle and bright, but faces heartbreaking challenges to fit in.
Written for readers in about fourth through seventh grades, the book is entirely believable in its presentation of various personalities and challenges faced by middle-school kids. As the story moves along, the characters develop and grow. Multiple narrators -- Auggie, two new friends at school, Auggie's sister (struggling as she starts high school), and his sister's one-time best friend -- add richness and balance to the story. Auggie's parents are unforgettable, as are his friends, which he does make, one by one.