Wonder by R.J. Palacio – a book review

Even though I read this book recently and it left a deep impression on me, I was reluctant to do a review of it here. I mean, there are currently 7,994 reviews of it on Amazon. Wow! that’s a lot of reviews… Do I really need to add my review?

I decided that if my review causes you to read this book than YES, it’s worth another review. Besides, I think this book is amazing and I just have to share it! By the way, even though this is a children’s book, it is more widely read and adults and children alike are reading it. The author notes with humor that it is more often the adults that cry, even weep, over the book.

I also feel like Wonder is tailor made for third culture kids. It addresses issues that are part of the fabric of our lives: being an outsider, showing kindness to other outsiders, and finding humor in difficult circumstances.
In this review, I have added excerpts from an interview the author had with Michelle Pauli on The Guardian Children’s Books podcast (which I’ve included below)

Being an outsider

No, most TCKs do not face the kind of ostracizing that a child with a severe cranial/facial difference faces, but we have all experienced some forms of rejection for being different and can empathize with Augie on some deep emotional level. This is what Patricia Pollacio says in the interview:

“Everyone can identify with that kid because we all know what it’s like to be the new kid, we all know what it’s like, or remember what it’s like, to be the outsider at some point in our lives and I think, for parents, watching our kids grow up is a way of reliving all of those heartbreaking moments in our own lives and trying to protect our children from having the same heartbreaks which, of course, is impossible.”. R.J. Palacio

As I read Wonder, I could identify with him on his first day at school, watching everyone around him chatting with friends and Augie, feeling so alone and isolated.

Showing Kindness

The second thing I wanted to mention about Wonder is the theme of compassion and kindness that flows throughout the novel. Yes, children can be cruel and unkind, but some kids have the courage and compassion to reach out to others, like Summer, who goes to sit with August and gets to know him. I know many TCKs are often like Summer because they can put themselves in the shoes of those who have been an outsider. There is that connection, there’s that “I know what that feels like” thread of empathy that draws us towards them.

“In some ways, yes, it’s a book about a kid with a cranial/facial difference, but for me, this was ultimately a meditation on kindness, the impact of kindness and the power of kindness to save our lives, to save the world. It is something that needs to be prioritized more in the way we approach raising our children.”. R.J. Palacio

I feel, as a TCK, deep empathy for the underdog and that person sitting alone in a crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always act on it – I am by nature shy, but when I do act out of kindness, it makes my heart glad I did.


Wonder is not just about heartbreaks, or showing kindness, but also the power of humor in difficult times.
I remember when I was in college, saying goodbye to my parents and sister at the airport as they returned to France, my brothers and I all heading off to our respective campuses. We were all huddled together, and someone or something – I can’t remember what it was – made us all laugh. We were laughing so hard, people were beginning to stare. But it was cathartic, the pain of saying goodbye dissipated in that humorous moment.


Saying good-bye and having a good laugh at O’Hare airport 1982


The author said in the interview:

“I met once with a family who had a child with a cranial/facial difference and what they liked the most about the book was the humor throughout… the father said to me: “In a way we have to find the humor in all of this” and they started telling me some really funny stories about the way people reacted to their child. They were making the best of it and finding humor whenever they could.”. RJ Palacio

Humor is a soothing ointment for difficult or painful experiences.

I urge you to read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It’s a powerful and moving story.

I think this novel would work well as a read-aloud and can lead to some great discussion, but just as a precaution, keep a box of tissues on hand.

Note: This is NOT a sad story. It is ultimately about kindness, about friendship, about love, hope, humor and families being there for you in the midst of it all.

Check out this cool episode: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/childrens-books-podcast/id423549679?mt=2&i=358906814


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