In 2012, R.J. Palacio released her bestselling book Wonder. Wonder tells the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, a boy who loves to play around and just be a 10 year old boy going to school for the first time. Unlike everyone else, Auggie has some unique facial differences and encounters many challenges, especially the harshness and judgment of others. R.J. Palacio has said she was inspired to write Wonder by a chance encounter she had with a young girl while she was at an ice cream shop with her two sons. After her son saw the child and began crying, she quickly turned his stroller around and pushed him away to protect the girl from his reaction.
Over Thanksgiving weekend 2017, my mom took my two sisters and I to see the recently released film Wonder directed by Stephen Chbosky and starring Julia Roberts, Owen Willson and Jacob Tremblay. This film really resonated with all of us and, in my opinion, I believe it was the best movie we all saw in a long time and is a great family friendly film. I actually saw it in theaters a second time with my friend who recommended the book to me and her daughter. Some within the disability community have been a little upset with Jacob Tremblay's casting as an abled-bodied actor, but I have to hand it to him - he did such an awesome job!
This movie and book really touched on many different perspectives, focusing not only on Auggie's point of view, but also his sister's, parents', friends', teachers', and strangers' experiences, and how they are all interconnected. The book is a perfect fit for third through eighth graders, but can be enjoyed by all ages of adults and children alike. The audiobook is narrated by an entire cast too. R.J. Palacio has also published an accompanying picture book, We're All Wonders (2017), for even younger readers.The overarching theme of Wonder is to choose kind.
When I started kindergarten, my teacher made a huge deal about how I had cerebral palsy, even though all the girls only wanted to know if I liked Barbies. My parents remember me coming home and announcing to them that I have cerebral palsy like they did not know. They also remember me insisting on having them tell everyone we met, even strangers in a store, that I had cerebral palsy.
When I started college, I felt very alone. I guess people were unsure how to talk to me, or did not know that I have a lot to say and can communicate. I feel fortunate that I have been able to help change the conversation on campus and host events including a book discussion of Wonder and screening of the film Wonder in November 2018, but that does not discount how disheartened I felt for months.
Everyone is unique and imperfect.
Everyone deserves a chance to be accepted, appreciated, included, and, most importantly, themselves.
By choosing kind, we realize we are all more alike than we are different and can embrace the power of positivity.
This is important to remember all year round, but especially at Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season.
Wonder by R .J. Palacio can be found on Amazon here: www.amazon.com/Wonder-R-J-Palacio/dp/0375869026
We're All Wonders by R .J. Palacio can be found on Amazon here: www.amazon.com/gp/product/1524766496/ref=ox_sc_act_title_4?smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER&psc=1
You can also view the trailer for the movie Wonder underneath pictures from the film screening at Holy Family University in Philadelphia, PA hosted by Holy Family University's club Interdisciplinary Disability Education and Acceptance (IDEA) which I founded.
And one final note, when the film Wonder was released in November 2017 ABC News' 20/20 featured a "Real-Life Wonder Boy" and introduced the Newman family who's teenage son Nathaniel has severe Treacher Collins (TC) syndrome — a craniofacial condition. In January 2020, the Newman family released two memoirs: Normal: A Mother and Her Beautiful Son by Magdalena Newman and Normal: One Kid's Extraordinary Journey by Magdalena and Nathaniel Newman. Stay tuned for my thoughts on these!