Second Bookses

It's like second breakfast. Only with books.
Wonder - R.J. Palacio For those of you looking for the tl;dr version of this review: Wonder is brilliant; I'm recommending it to every middle-grader parent I know, parent of a boy or girl regardless; you need to read this right now.I picked up a galley of R. J. Palacio's Wonder from NetGalley on a day it was promoted simply because I'm always looking for middle-grade books for my fourth-grader; he gets bored easily and he's drawn only to male protagonists. I'm also working with both my third- and fourth-graders on stopping the name-calling prevalent at their ages, and thought this might be a help.Boy, was I blown away.::: The Plot :::The book opens with Auggie, the main character, describing his facial deformities: "Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse." At a break in the incessant reconstructive surgeries he's undergone, Auggie's mother finally thinks he's ready to start school, and his parents start him in a private middle school in New York City. He's assigned students to show him around the school and he seems to make a couple of friends. But as any parent of middle schoolers know, it's not easy in the best of situations, and if you are in any way visibly "different," middle school is bound to be a nightmare.Beginning with Auggie and then going through various points-of-view of his sister Via, schoolmate Jack, sister's boyfriend Justin, and schoolmate Summer, Auggie goes through the school year. I'd challenge the Grinch himself to not be moved to tears at various points when reading Wonder.::: Lessons Without a Hammer :::So many middle-grade books attempt to teach children life lessons, but drums them over the head with them. Wonder isn't too subtle for middle graders to pick up on, but it doesn't need to drum the lessons over and over again: It has a main character that allows the author to impart the lessons without a megaphone. Auggie's own inner (and sometimes spoken) dialogue provides many of the most poignant moments, like his assessment of Halloween: "I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks."The book's lessons -- of kindness, of accepting people who are different, of standing up for what's right instead of what's popular -- are something every parent wants their middle grader to learn. To have it written in such a beautiful and moving book is truly remarkable, and I hope my kids enjoy the book as much as I did. I'll update this review after they read it, but I really believe this one is going to be a universal win in this house.

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