‘Wonder’ is a new age classic, the story of the fifth-grader August Pullman, who suffers from mandibulofacial dysostosis -which is a rare genetic malfunction which causes facial deformity. When he moves from homeschooling to joining middle school , his journey lays bare the struggles both in his own family and at school . The brilliance of R. J. Palacio, is the narratives from different character’s perspectives – a peek into each pivotal character’s mind, letting us know how they think or feel about the same situation.
A revealing and thought provoking “Kinder than is necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.” is by far the most important thing that lingers long after you read this book
This book opens up a plethora of important conversations-
Choices , our Internal Judgements and Consequences
Read the chapter where Auggie unrecognised in costume on Halloween , listens to Julian make fun of him and then hears his best friend , Jack betray him. Auggie runs out crying and broken.
…What would you have done if you were Jack? Is it important to be popular? Will you punch him(like Jack does later in the book?) Why don’t we have the courage to say what we feel ?
…Examine the need for approval and the cost of depending on someone’s approval. This can be from a choice of friend to a life partner or following your heart vs the safe path in a career
“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.”
…How many judgements and assumptions do we make on the basis of looks and preconceived notions? How do we move towards an open and curious approach to people, without judging?
…How many times does it affect vital decisions? Read this article from (https://www.forbes.com/sites/tykiisel/2013/03/20/you-are-judged-by-your-appearance/#6d46e4366d50) and take a look inside
A rather heartbreaking video from UNICEF, shows Anano, a six-year-old child actor, is dressed in different ways and placed in different scenarios. ( https://youtu.be/MQcN5DtMT-0 )When Anano is well-dressed, we see people actively trying to help her. But when Anano’s appearance is altered to make her look homeless, we see people shunning her and sometimes even telling her to go away.
…Why do people treat Anano so differently depending on how she is dressed?
…Have we become so used to seeing homelessness and poverty that we do not consider it urgent to rush to the child’s help unless she looks like someone affluent and just lost, and in danger?
Bullying from all perspectives
“If you can get through middle school without hurting anyone’s feelings, that’s really cool beans”.
Bullying is unfortunately a stark reality for kids today and while there may be many books that deal with ‘How to deal with a bully’ , this one is special because it shows the bully’s perspective as well..how his nightmares came back and why having Auggie around actually bothered him. Again the need for kindness , to understand another’s anguish. Auggie couldn’t have dreamt that mean popular kid could be actually suffering because of him.
A rather rare insight from the book is from Via, Auggie’s sister. Fiercely protective and loving, whe she briefly sees Auggie like everyone else and is horrified with herself. As we read her talk with her Granny, w e realise while we need to kind be to everyone, we also need to be kind to ourselves, to forgive ourself for a bad choices and do better next time.
BeingRight vs Being kind/ Being accepted/Being loved
While being kind in the incredible thread woven into every word of this book, this quote is my favorite, it underlines how the need to be accepted and applauded is so real.
“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”
There is a piece where Julian, the bully has left school and still missing it, seeks approval as he writes to Mr.Brown. While the letter may be completely self absorbed or in denial , the reply from Mr.Brown, a gentle thoughtful letter that leaves Julian smiling. That is just what kindness is all about. Doing the right thing with compassion and understanding
So there, be kind, every opportunity, everyday , to everyone!
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