The one thing about books that become classics is their stories’ ability to transcend time, culture and perspective. Case in point is Wonder, by author R.J. Palacios and published by Knopf in 2012. With its 10th birthday in the rear-view mirror – fitting since Wonder’s main character is a boy of the same age – Wonder is enjoying a resurgence in popularity thanks in large part to the IDD community.
The story revolves around 10-year-old August (“Auggie”) Pullman. Auggie is a typical boy who loves Star Wars and his dog, but that’s where typical ends. Auggie has a genetic condition that results in a “craniofacial difference.” Palacios doesn’t identify specifics in the book, but when pressed after publication, the author acknowledged that Auggie’s differences would most resemble Treacher Collins Syndrome.
Because of multiple medical difficulties that accompany Auggie’s condition, his parents homeschool him until he’s ready to start middle school. Their reasoning for their timing: Everyone will be new. Yet this newness is the least of the challenges Auggie will contend with as he struggles to create new friendships, contend with bullies and navigate a world that can’t stop staring.
What underscores Palacio’s novel is the undeniable power and imperative of empathy, compassion and kindness, and she’s used that message to touch the hearts of readers everywhere. Publisher’s Weekly noted, “Wonder has been released in more than 55 languages, sold more than 15 million copies worldwide, received more than a dozen Best Books accolades and spent more than 500 weeks on the New York Times middle-grade bestseller list—213 of those weeks in the #1 spot.”
One reason for the novel’s broad popularity is its relatability. Scholars and readers alike have noted that Auggie’s interactions with his family, classmates and teachers are often framed in terms of seeing, not seeing, and being seen. Auggie’s differences make him stand out from others, but they obscure other aspects of his identity. At times, others make a concerted effort not to see Auggie’s differences, as if they simply don’t exist. Ultimately, he feels physically seen but metaphorically unseen, something we can all relate to regardless of our own circumstances.
Readers of all ages have raved about Wonder, but one young reader summed the book up best saying, “I'm in seventh grade and reading this book really changed my perspective about everyone.”
Over the last decade, Wonder has become a critically acclaimed bestseller; spawned a series of related books and journals; been transformed into a major motion picture; inspired the #ChooseKind global movement. Wonder’s status as a modern classic is assured.
If you loved reading Wonder, you’re in luck. Book Riot created a list of book recommendations that smartly and sensitively feature members of the IDD community and their shared experiences. We invite you to add some of these titles to your must-read list.