Last week was the first Monday that I had missed since Sian instigated Memorandum Monday. I just couldn't think of anything new I had learnt or done, no obscure thing that I could vaguely tweak to fit into the right category. However, this weekend was a different matter! This was the first time I have read a complete book in the space of just over 24 hours! It wasn't my normal type of book but it was one I could not put down (for several reasons)
The first reason was that I had to give it back to the school library before we break up tomorrow - but even if that hadn't been the case, it was a book that made me want to continue reading 'just one chapter more'.
Let me tell you the background to me reading this when it is clearly a 'cross over' book - written as a children's novel but easily suitable for an adult to read. The Headteacher's PA (aka my line manager!) asked me if I could do a job for the English faculty. Just typing up various parts of the opening chapters of the book to be used as for the new Year 7 girls when they join us in September. Paragraphs to be used as discussion points for how people feel when having to deal with changes and worrying about not fitting in. By the end of doing the typing I was feeling pretty emotional but could see how it was a great book to use. I told my line manager who said it had been chosen for her book club and without fail, everyone who read it had cried at some point in the story. It's called Wonder by R J Palacio. She loved it so much all three of her children read it and all enjoyed it. Everyone finds it very thought provoking.
Without giving away any spoilers for anyone who may decide to give it a go, it is about a boy called August (Auggie) who is starting school for the first time, although he is fifth grade (it's set in America and I guess that may be about age 10?) Up until then he has been home schooled, and the reason for that is because he was born with a genetic condition which means his face is badly deformed. The story covers that first year in school, how he copes with the looks and reactions of people meeting him for the first time, how he copes with being different. How knowing Auggie, affects the other people there. Settling into a new school is hard enough for any child, but to be SO different to the rest, well, you can't imagine what it must be like. The book is then broken into sections so you see that same year from several different perspectives
- his sister Olivia who has always known that her brother's needs will affect what they as a family can do, and being defined as 'the sister of the boy with the weird face'. She too is going up to a new school and finding it hard to settle in, but how can she share her troubles when clearly her brother has a much harder time than her?
- Summer - the girl who befriends him right from the start and sees him for what's inside of him, not judging him by his looks
- Jack - the boy who is asked to 'buddy' with August, who finds himself torn between following his true feelings or pretending that he is only friendly with August because he has to. (The bit about Halloween made my eyes fill with tears)
- Justin - the boy who becomes Olivia's boyfriend
- Miranda - the girl who was Olivia's friend at their previous school who gets caught up with being part of the 'cool gang' at the new school who dictate whether or not she can be friends with Olivia
- It ends with August at the end of that school year. How he's changed, how he's coped.
Can I just share a sentence or two from the end of the book where he thanks his mum for making him go to school when he really didn't want to leave the comfort of home schooling.
"Thank you, Auggie," she answered softly.
"For everything you've given us," she said. "For coming into our lives. For being you."
She bent down and whispered in my ear. "You really are a wonder, Auggie. You are a wonder."
This is a long post, but if you have time to spare, or if you have a child about to move onto a new school and be worrying about fitting in, or you just fancy reading an easy to read lovely, uplifting book which is about how a little kindness can go a very long way, I really would recommend it. Just remember to have a box of tissues nearby.