Study Guide

Wonder

By R.J. Palacio

Wonder Introduction

Ten year-old August Pullman doesn't look like the rest of us. He was born with a craniofacial abnormality so radical that his face causes the first person who ever sees him to faint; elicits audible noises of surprise from people; makes kids on the playground scream and run away; and, well, looks like it could be a Halloween mask.

His family and friends call him Auggie. But he has been called other names, like:

  • Rat boy
  • Freak
  • Monster
  • Freddy Krueger
  • E.T.
  • Gross-out
  • Lizard-face
  • Mutant

To name a few.

In R.J. Palacio's New York Times bestselling novel, Wonder (published in 2012), we follow August "Auggie" Pullman as he plunges into middle school. Being even a little bit different in middle school is can make life rough, but when the mere sight of your face face makes adults gasp and little kids think it's Halloween, you're going to have an even tougher time of it.

Like, a really tough time.

Even though Wonder is her first book, Palacio doesn't seem to have any trouble letting her main character suffer. Auggie is stared at, whispered about, avoided, made fun of, bullied, and excluded. But despite so many challenges, Auggie's is definitely a story of hope.

So how does Auggie go from being the freak to eventually being accepted as "the nicest Auggie Doll in the world" (6.The Auggie Doll.14)? You're gonna have to read this book to find out.

What is Wonder About and Why Should I Care?

Warning: It is possible that Wonder will have seismic impact on your life, with its epicenter right in the very core of your soul. This young adult sensation has a solid reputation for bringing readers of all ages to tears—and laughter (phew). Sure it's sad sometimes, but it's not a tragedy. And although it's a simple story, it's one you'll probably remember for the rest of your life. In a good way, we swear.

Wonder prepares us to handle uncomfortable or difficult situations with greater clarity and maturity than we might otherwise, and we leave the book with a good sense of how to be more sensitive to people who are different. But more importantly, we see how important simple kindness is.

And the thing about kindness is that a little can go quite a far way. "Such a simple thing, kindness. […] A nice word of encouragement given when needed. An act of friendship. A passing smile" (8.A Simple Thing.19). There are plenty of kids at Beecher Prep who refrain from being openly unkind to Auggie, but mostly this means that they avoid him and make zero effort to get to know him—which isn't the same thing as kindness at all. But this just makes the kids who are kind shine all the brighter. As readers, we can't help but want to be more like them.

Scads of impressive authors and thinkers have written about the importance of kindness, from Sophocles to the Dalai Lama. Folks just can't leave this idea alone, so they're probably onto something. And as Henry James wrote, "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind." And now, thanks to R.J. Palacio, the world gets to enjoy one more meditation on the profound power of kindness.

Wonder Resources

Websites

Just Can't Get Enough?
R.J. Palacio's website rocks. The story of her inspiration, trivia, FAQs, links, and more.

She's Got a Tumblr Too
Palacio's tumblr page is filled with questions from fans. So if there's something you're curious about, this is the place to ask her.

Children's Craniofacial Association
In the book, Auggie says he has mandibulofacial dysotosis, but the author has described his condition more specifically as Treacher-Collins Syndrome.

"Dedicated to Ending Social Isolation"
If you liked Wonder, check out this reading list of books you'll probably also enjoy.

Imagine This: A World Without Bullies
Beautiful video about the Children's Craniofacial Association's annual family retreat.

Choose Kind
Want to sign the Choose Kind pledge?

Choose Kind on Tumblr
Resources, badges, stickers, E-cards and more.

Pinned
Lovely Pinterest page devoted to all things Wonder-ful.

Articles and Interviews

Interview in Slate Magazine
Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying, chats with Raquel Jaramillo (a.k.a. R.J. Palacio) about Wonder.

New York Times Sunday Book Review
For fun (and one hundred imaginary smarty-pants bonus points), find the glaring error in this article.

"See Grown-Ups Read"
The Wall Street Journal examines the phenomenon of how adults really dig children's and young adult lit. "The growing appeal of children's literature reflects a broader cultural shift as the taste gap between generations collapses."

Video

The Book Trailer
Shmoop loves book trailers. And this one even includes the astronaut's helmet.

"How I Came to Life"
Author R. J. Palacio reads a chapter from Wonder.

Today, Santa Monica. Tomorrow, Broadway?
Introducing the cast readers of CCA Voices of Wonder, with bonus super cute ending.

Audio

R.J. Palacio on Morning Edition
"Wonder" What It's Like to Have Kids Stare at You? (NPR's pun, not ours.)

Images

He's Got it Covered
Which cover do you like?

Portrait of the Artist
Author R.J. Palacio.

Meet and Greet
The author meets a fan.