Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Wonder"


"I wont 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 enter fifth 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? Amazon





R.J. Palacio on what inspired Wonder:

About five years ago I took my son's for ice cream, and while my older son went inside to buy us our milk shakes, my younger son and I waited on the bench outside. My younger son was only about 3 years old at the time, and he was in his stroller facing me while I sat on the bench. At a certain point I realized that sitting right next to me was a little girl with a severe craniofacial difference, her friend (or sister), and her mother. When my younger son looked up and saw her, he reacted exactly the way you might think a three-year old would react when seeing something that scared him: he started to cry—pretty loudly, too. I hurriedly tried to push him away in the stroller, not for his sake but to avoid hurting the girl's feelings, and in my haste I caused my older son to spill the shakes, and, well, it was quite a scene—the opposite of what I had hoped for. But as I pushed my younger son’s stroller away I heard the little girls’ mom say, in as sweet and calm a voice as you can imagine: “Okay, guys, I think it’s time to go.” And that just got to me.

For the rest of the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about how that scene had played out. It occurred to me that they probably went through something like that dozens of times a day. Hundreds of times. What would that be like? What could I be teaching my children so they could understand how to respond better next time? Is “don’t stare” even the right thing to teach, or is there something deeper? All this stuff was flying through my head, and I realized that I was disappointed in myself because I had missed a good teaching moment for my kids. What I should have done, instead of trying to get my kids away and avoid the situation, was engage the girl and her mother in conversation. If my son cried, so be it: kids cry. But I should have set a better example for him, and shown him there was nothing to fear. Instead I panicked. I simply didn't have the wherewithall to know what to do in that situation. 

Coincidentally, the song Wonder by Natalie Merchant came on the radio that night, as I was thinking about the ice cream incident, and something about the words to the song just got to me. I started writing Wonder that very night. 





This book really stood out to me. It's not full of over the top, in your face lessons. The lessons are subtle and are perfectly placed in the day to day interactions of a fifth grader. The book’s main message is simple: kindness.

On the surface, one would read this book and get caught up in how all the characters react to Auggie’s facial deformity. But in reality the thing that stands out most is the amount of kindness the characters express toward him. Even Auggie's school administrator speaks about the word kindness in his speech at the class’s fifth grade graduation. "Kinder than necessary," is how he encourages the students to behave.

Yes, we should have compassion for those who are in worse situations than our own. Especially those who are in situations that they have no control over- i.e. things they were born with. But most importantly, regardless of deformities or not; we should be kind to each other. It’s one thing to be kind because of circumstance, but being kinder than necessary makes all the difference.

Wonder is a great teaching aid for children and adults. The story is a perfect reminder of how to carry ourselves and how to interact with people... Kinder than necessary.



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