The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they’ve died. They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians build to honour the pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, they’re made out of memories people have of you. That’s why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone.
August Pullman’s , R.J.Palacio’s lead character in Wonder, explanation for the precept ‘Your deeds are your monuments’.
Middle school is the time when children start recognizing their ability to be mean and hurt. It is the time when they want to be considered one among their peers and will do pretty much anything to fit in. It is the time when some friendships are made for life and some others are broken forever. It is this time that R.J.Palacio takes us to and introduces to us the most extraordinary person with a wonderful personality, without a face.
That person is August Pullman who is born with a rare facial disorder called the craniofacial anomaly. He has eyes in the middle of his face and cauliflower like stumps for ears. It is this brave, brave young boy much loved by his devoted parents, his sister Via and unconditionally by his pet Darth Daisy that Wonder is about.
He may have undergone multiple surgeries for his condition but it is his first steps into middle school that scare him more than anything he has known in his young life. This he does amidst all the fearful looks and disgust that his face evokes every time. The school and the parents try to create an atmosphere of tolerance and understanding. The children though in the majority are shocked and refuse to interact with August. Summer and JackWill go on to become his friends.
August though soldiers on being the ‘cool bean’ that he is. He never lets the hurt or pain show. The tide slowly but steadily turns in his favour when the children realise that beneath the facelessness is an intelligent, humorous and interesting peer. The annual nature retreat proves to be the turning point for August in more ways than one.
The school director Tushman tells the graduating class, what is the very essence of the book.
One should be kinder than necessary. Because it’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed. Why I love that line, that concept, is that it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.
Wonder is the book that you should be ready to cry freely. I did. The book is told in many voices. August’s, Via’s, Summer and Jack Will. Each of them has a story to tell. Divorced parents, playing second fiddle to a brother with medical problems and living in less than prosperous neighbourhood. The children all have their perspective and we realise that life is anything but a walk in the park for them. It is their grace, kindness, and sharing that elevates them.
This is the perfect book to give to a child who is on the cusp of growing up. It is the quintessential book to teach a child and ourselves that differences are a way of life, full of meaning and value. It teaches us that kindness and love alone makes life worth living. The book is never ever preachy, easy to read and a page turner if ever there was one. The drama that unfolds on a daily basis in school halls is captured so well. This is the book to quote The Independent “It wreaks emotional havoc”.
Book recommendation credit: Mamta Chander