REVIEW OF THE BOOK: We’re All Wonders*
From the Publisher:
Over 5 million people have fallen in love with Wonder and have joined the movement to Choose Kind. Now younger readers can meet Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face, and his beloved dog, Daisy.
Countless fans have asked R. J. Palacio to write a book for younger readers. With We’re All Wonders, she makes her picture-book debut as both author and artist, with a spare, powerful text and striking, richly imagined illustrations. Palacio shows readers what it’s like to live in Auggie’s world—a world in which he feels like any other kid, but he’s not always seen that way.
We’re All Wonders may be Auggie’s story, but it taps into every child’s longing to belong, and to be seen for who they truly are. It’s the perfect way for families and educators to talk about empathy and kindness with young children.
This picture book contains a wonderful message of self-acceptance and the importance of accepting others and showing kindness to each other. The focal character, Augie, is presented as having a non-specific facial disfigurement that is almost fantastical (he is shown as only having one eye and no other facial features at all) – perhaps so that children can more easily identify with the character and superimpose their own “differences” without having the disfigurement be specific and therefore non-relatable or limited in scope. The differences could be physical, emotional, etc. Like any child, Augie compares himself to an ordinary kid -coming up with a list of things he does that other kids do but, because he doesn’t look ordinary, he feels ostracized. He receives much positive support from his parents: “Mom says I’m a wonder” and his dog, Daisy, agrees – ah, the unconditional love of pets! Others around him don’t see him as a wonder – all they see are differences (we need to work harder in society to change this!!!). Like any child who is ridiculed or bullied, the words and actions of other kids hurt and discourage him. Augie can hear their mean words. The irony shown in the illustration on the page depicting this is that the group of kids who are making fun are all different – races, heights, hair colour, glasses, etc., but still banding together to see Augie as “other”.
Like many other children, Augie uses his imagination (and a toy space helmet) and the features of a cityscape (a large water tower on the top of a building substituting as his rocket) to escape to a world where he is accepted by others. In his daydream, Augie and Daisy fly to Pluto, where he is greeted by an alien race with facial features just like him (reaffirming his self-perception as feeling “alien” in his Earth community).
The strong message of the book is that people on Earth (billions) are all different colours who walk/talk differently and that Earth is big enough for ALL KINDS of people!! As he recovers from the bullying, Augie verbalizes that he knows can’t change the way he looks, but that “maybe, people can change the way they see. They’ll see that I’m a wonder and they’ll see that they’re wonders, too! We are ALL wonders!” There is a hopeful ending as Augie comes across a boy (who is of a non-white race) who looks on him with kindness. The message we are left with is to “look with kindness and you will always find wonder”. On the back cover, illustration, the message being flown behind plane is to “choose kind”, the same message presented in the YA book for older readers. The author’s illustrations are bright, bold, and clearly show the difference between reality and Augie’s imagined episode. I HIGHLY recommend this book for all young children as a powerful tool in the efforts to combat bullying and promote peace and kindness. It is a MUST HAVE for personal and library collections.
I HIGHLY recommend this book for all young children as a powerful tool in the efforts to combat bullying and promote peace and kindness. It is a MUST HAVE for personal and library collections.
My 3 year-old loved this book and has requested that I read it to her several times. She clearly got the parts that were reality and the parts that were imagined. She was quick to identify that the aliens on Pluto looked like Augie and asked if that is how he felt – like an alien. She reacted to the bullying with compassion for Augie and was able to identify something about herself that she hopes she won’t be teased about. As a read-aloud, this book opened a huge door for us to discuss the importance of kindness, compassion, and putting yourself in another’s shoes.
- vibrant and effective illustrations
- strong and engaging (not too ‘preachy’) message about the importance of kindness, self-acceptance, and compassion
- key message for kids, especially in today’s political and social landscape (upheaval)
- approachable and sparse text
Why/How Use it with kids:
- Use this as a springboard for a discussion of both self-acceptance and acceptance of differences in others:
- Discuss with your child things he/she is proud of about him/herself and why those things make him/her feel good about him/herself. Then ask if anything about them is a source of discouragement. Discuss why. Try to bring the conversation around to how that difference could be seen as a strength or advantage.
- Identify someone who the child (or your family) knows who may seem different from the child. Discuss how this person might feel about him/herself. Ask your child to put themselves in this person’s shoes. How would THEY want to be treated?
- Discuss ways to “choose kind” and show acceptance and love to those who may seem different than ourselves.
- Using a mirror, have your child draw or paint a self portrait. Discuss the results
- Have your child write down five positive things about themself. Discuss and post the list where it will be seen by the child. Then have them choose a friend or family member and do the same for them (could be in a card format). Give or send the card to the person it is about.
- The movie based on the YA book “Wonder” is coming out soon. This is a great way to discuss the movie/topic with younger kids.
About the Author/Illustrator:
R. J. Palacio lives in NYC with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. For many years, she was an art director and book jacket designer, designing covers for countless well-known and not so well-known writers in every genre of fiction and nonfiction. She always wanted to write, though. She kept waiting for the perfect time in her life to start writing, but after more than twenty years of designing book jackets for other people, realized that the perfect time would never really present itself. It’s never the perfect time to start writing a book. So she decided to just go for it. Wonder (YA book) was her first novel. ~(from author website)