Out of the Frying Pan…into Wonder

I mentioned at the end of Part 2 of Reading Darker Books with a Younger Child that Miss L had brought home Wonder from the library for her next nighttime read. In its own way, its been just as much of an interesting read as The Archived was. In some ways, it’s actually been harder. Here’s the breakdown so far…

WonderWonder: I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances? -Goodreads

Not So “Wonder”ful

When we were reading  The Archived, the big thing that we had to deal with was Mac dealing with the loss of her brother Ben. It’s not something that happens during the story. It actually takes place a year earlier. So it’s hard, but it was kind of distant, too. Now, there was the whole violence thing, but that wasn’t really a big deal, to be honest. So, death was our issue. Our big, in your face, you’re going to deal with this whether you want to or not issue. We did it, even though there were hard discussions involved.

Quite frankly, I’d take another book like The Archived over Wonder right now.

Wonder is an interesting book, and it’s definitely captured her attention. She loves hearing about Auggie, and sympathizes with him when things aren’t going well. The chapters in the individual sections are really short so if she’s super tired, we might only read two or three pages to get through one. The book seems very realistic. It’s told from three point of views (so far). August, his sister Via, and his best friend Summer. Each character is very different, and interesting in their own way. Some of the observations they make are very on point.

So, why do I say I’d take another book like The Archived over Wonder? Simple. Because I don’t like opening Miss L’s eyes to the reality of how horrible other kids can be. I hate having to explain to her – my sweet, loving, never-met-a-stranger child, that the way Auggie gets treated in school is believable. That other kids (and adults!) really do treat people who look different like that. How freaking ignorant the world can be!

You Can’t Catch His ‘Brokens’

This was one of the big conversations we had. At one point in the book, August realizes that the kids at school don’t want to touch him. That they actively go out of their way to avoid touching him. To someone like Miss L, who thinks hugs and kisses should be a daily occurrence, it was almost impossible for her to comprehend. So, in putting it in words she could understand, I had to explain that just like she’s got ‘broken’ parts on the inside, August has broken parts on the outside. And that lots of kids don’t have parents who have taught them that you can’t catch someone’s birth defects/genetic anomalies. That even though she isn’t afraid of loving on and being friends with kids who look different, lots of other kids are.

She basically told me that was stupid. That she would be Auggie’s friend. That she knew you couldn’t catch his brokens through touch. It’s heart-warming to hear, and simultaneously sad at the same time. If her sister would have lived, though she was not visibly deformed, she would have been one of those kids that other kids avoided. Wheelchair-bound, trached, almost completely blind, and probably deaf. Miss L would have been the best damn big sister to her.

Auggie the Underestimated

This was one of the more interesting parts of the talks that we’ve had since starting this book. Auggie is underestimated by almost everyone, including his big sister. He really is a normal kid – well, stronger than a normal kid – but no one seems to see it. So we talked about the ways in which he was normal, and how the things he encounters makes him feel. When he’s frustrated, I stop and ask her why he’s frustrated. It helps her to see why he’s reacting the way he does. When he encounters something that hurts him, before we even get to him dealing with it, I ask her how she thinks he’s going to react. So, when he reacts exactly like she would react, it hammers the point home even further.

At the end of one of these little mini-talks, I put my finger on her forehead, and said “So, he’s just like you in there?” She agreed. “So regardless of what he looks like on the outside, he’s just a normal kid?” She agreed again. The point was made, so I exclaimed “ohm-nom!” and tried to bite her. (I swear we don’t make it through one bedtime story session without raspberries, attempted biting, ninja poking, and funny faces. )

We’re about halfway through the book at this point, and I can’t wait to see how Auggie ends the school year. At the same time, I’m scared that he’s going to encounter more bullying.

What is she going to take away from this?

On one hand, I guess it’s good she knows to expect the little of crappiness kiddos can achieve, but at the same time…  For other kids, this would probably be a great read. It would help them to understand that even though someone may look different, they’re normal in ways that matter. That kids with disabilities can still be awesome people that they should befriend. But what is she taking away from this? That people are jerks? That kids can be cruel? She’s only seven. Can’t we put off those life lessons just a few more years?

What do you think? Have you read Wonder?

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