I recently finished the audio book edition of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. As someone who usually prefers to read the fantasy genre, I can say this caught my attention from the first words spoken by the narrator.
The story of a boy with genetic conditions that lead to facial abnormalities is narrated in first person by a variety of characters who know August "Auggie" Pullman, but is mostly narrated by August himself.
The story begins as August learns that his mother wants him to try going to school for the first time. He had previously been taught at home by his mother, somewhat out of necessity, due to his many medical procedures when he was younger. But, August enters middle school as a fifth grader and the audience follows him, and those who know him, through his fifth grade year.
The thing that I enjoyed most about the book was the insight into a variety of characters. We see August's perspective on certain events, and then we see the same events from another's perspective, such as his sister Olivia. Though, sometimes the story moves along in time with one character narrating entirely new plot developments. So, events are not always repeated when there is a new narrator, and when they were, there were new angles to the story so that nothing seemed repetitive. It was refreshing to form certain opinions about characters when viewed from Auggie's perspective, but then to be able to change those opinions when the story was narrated by those characters themselves. I felt that the emotions and motivations of those that know Auggie were portrayed in an authentic manner. Humans are flawed individuals, and the author portrayed that well.
Of course, there are some events that put Auggie in situations that tug at the heartstrings. There were a few times where I was genuinely angered by the actions of some characters. But, for this reader, that is a sign of a good book. Overall, I enjoyed the journey and the chance to spend a year with Auggie and those who know him. I think this is an excellent read and I plan to read it with my students in the Fall.
If you are a fan of audio books, I recommend this one, which I listened to through Audible.com. It features multiple narrators so that as different characters are telling their stories, the narrator changes. I have not read the print version yet, so I cannot offer my opinion on how it is laid out. Some reviewers on Amazon stated that they couldn't get past the grammatical errors. Apparently there are some parts with little to no capitalization. In the audio book, I caught little errors such as things like, "...me and mom..." I let them go because the narrator was fifth grade Auggie at the time, and it fit with the character and what the author was trying to portray.
While, as a language arts teacher, I may eventually find the format of the print version to be a little lacking, I am sure the errors were included to make it be a realistic representation of children sharing their own thoughts. All of the narration is in a first person point of view from one of the characters in the story. It sort of reads like the characters simply sharing their thoughts about and recollections of events for a large majority of the time. I think it makes sense for the story, even though I wouldn't say it should become a trend. I plan to use those errors, as well as the many lessons we can learn from Auggie and his family and friends, as teaching moments in the future.
Elizabeth Woodrum's Blog
Elizabeth Woodrum is the author of the children's book series, The Maisy Files. She is also a full-time teacher and creator of teaching materials that can be found on Teachers Pay Teachers. This blog is a mix of teaching and author topics.