Study Guide

Wonder Quotes

  • Appearances

    Chapter 1
    August Pullman

    And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go. (1.Ordinary.1)

    Auggie chases that word "ordinary" around and around in his head, struggling to reconcile the disparity between how he feels and how he looks. He wants to be normal so badly that he rejects the idea that he is extraordinary. Over the course of the school year though, Auggie learns how he is actually both ordinary and extraordinary.

    Mom says by then they had told her all about me. She had been preparing herself for the seeing of me. But she says that when she looked down into my tiny mushed-up face for the first time, all she could see was how pretty my eyes were. (1.How I Came to Life.6)

    Moms are awesome. That's all.

    Unfortunately, while I managed to avoid having the portrait taken, I couldn't get out of being part of the class picture. Ugh. The photographer looked like he'd just sucked on a lemon when he saw me. I'm sure he thought I ruined the picture. I was one of the ones in the front, sitting down. I didn't smile, not that anyone could tell if I had. (1.School Picture.2)

    To make matters worse, Julian's mom proceeds to Photoshop Auggie out of the picture and then distribute her "cleaned-up" versions to other parents. It makes our blood boil.

    On the flip side though, just to play devil's advocate for a second, do you think the photographer really thinks that August ruins the picture? He might have been thinking about the speeding ticket he got on the way to work, for all Auggie knows. Is it possible that Auggie imagines the worst?

    In the hallways, which were always crowded, my face would always surprise some unsuspecting kid who maybe hadn't heard about me. The kid would make the sound you make when you hold your breath before going underwater, a little "uh!" sound. (1.Wake Me Up When September Ends.3)

    Auggie wants to think that he has gotten used to this kind of reaction, but it seems to us that it still hurts him enough that he continues to wish he looked normal. Poor kid just doesn't get a break when it comes to his appearances.

    Julian

    "If I looked like that," said the Julian voice, kind of laughing, "I swear to God, I'd put a hood over my face every day."

    "I've thought about this a lot," said the second mummy, sounding serious, "and I really think…if I looked like him, seriously, I think that I'd kill myself." (1.The Bleeding Scream.8-9)

    Julian has worn the Darth Sidious mask on Halloween probably in hopes of upsetting Auggie—and before Auggie is even on the scene, Julian uses the mask to initiate an Auggie-bashing session. While it's understandable that kids in Auggie's class try to imagine how they'd cope with having a face like Auggie, they've just likened him to Darth Sidious, a shrunken head, and an orc.

    "Why is your hair so long?" Julian said to me. He sounded like he was annoyed.

    I didn't know what to say, so I just shrugged.

    "Can I ask you a question?" he said.

    I shrugged again. Didn't he just ask me a question?

    "What's the deal with your face? I mean, were you in a fire or something?" (1.The Performance Space.26-30)

    Julian reminds us over and over again that plenty of people in this world use appearances as a tool to really hurt people. And just so you know, it's rude to ask someone about why the look the way they do without them indicating first that it's something they want to talk about.

    Jack Will

    "Are you always going to look this way, August? I mean, can't you get plastic surgery or something?"

    I smiled and pointed to my face. "Hello?" This is after plastic surgery.

    Jack clapped his hand over his forehead and started laughing hysterically.

    "Dude, you should sue your doctor!" he answered between giggles. (1.Jack Will.14-17)

    Jack has begun to grasp the permanence of August's plight and how hurtful people's reactions to his face must be. But more importantly, Jack's ability to laugh about the whole situation shows how comfortable he is with Auggie.

    Chapter 2
    Olivia "Via" Pullman

    His eyes are about an inch below where they should be on his face, almost to halfway down his cheeks. They slant downward at an extreme angle, almost like. […] His head is pinched in on the sides where the ears should be, like someone used giant pliers and crushed the middle part of his face. He doesn't have cheekbones. There are deep creases running down both sides of his nose to his mouth, which gives him a waxy appearance. Sometimes people assume he's been burned in a fire: his features look like they've been melted, like the drippings on the side of a candle. (2.August Through the Peephole.1)

    Do you or someone you know have a facial difference? Has reading Wonder made you better prepared to navigate these sorts of variations in appearances? That's really all this is, after all—a variation in appearance.

    Chapter 4
    Jack Will

    "I bet you they put a picture of their dog on the card every year," I said.

    She took the card from my hands and looked at the picture carefully. Then she raised her eyebrows and her shoulders and gave me back the card. "We're very lucky, Jack. There's so much we take for granted…"

    "I know," I said. I knew what she was talking about without her having to say it. (4.Season's Greetings.4-6)

    Just go there with Jack's mom for a minute, and think about all the things most people generally take for granted. Are you grateful every day for your face? Probably not. And let's not stop there—for most of us, our lives are filled with things we take for granted, like walking, talking, seeing, hearing, and much more. Now try to imagine how your life might be different without any one of these gifts.

    Chapter 5
    Justin

    i guess i thought her brother would have some scars here and there. but not this. i definitely wasn't expecting to see this little kid in a baseball cap who's sitting in front of me right now. […] i like to think i'm able to hide my surprise. i hope i do. surprise is one of those emotions that can be hard to fake, though, whether you're trying to look surprised when you're not or trying to not look surprised when you are. i shake his hand. i shake the other kid's hand. don't want to focus on his face. cool room, I say. (5.Olivia's Brother.2-5)

    When Justin meets August, he is one of the few characters with the self-awareness and self-possession to be mindful about how he reacts to his appearance. Not only is Justin sensitive about how his reaction impacts both August and Via, but he is also mature enough to make an intentional choice to look beyond Auggie's face, focusing instead on Auggie's cool room.

    Chapter 8
    Isabel and Nate Pullman

    "Come on, Auggie, please try to understand," he continued, putting his hand under my chin and tilting my face toward him. "You were wearing that helmet all the time. And the real, real, real, real truth is: I missed seeing your face, Auggie. I know you don't always love it, but you have to understand…I love it. I love this face of yours, Auggie, completely and passionately. And it kind of broke my heart that you were always covering it up." (8.The Drop-Off.33)

    There's regular old "I love you," which Auggie's family says plenty. But to hear "I love your face," and to hear it said with such absolute wholeheartedness is a hugely meaningful message. Auggie has struggled his entire life with his appearance, which creates so many challenges for him, and for much of the story Auggie wishes away his terrible face. His dad's all-in acceptance and love helps Auggie finally begin to accept his face too.

  • Isolation

    Chapter 1
    August Pullman

    I tried to sit down at one table, but the kid in the next chair said, "Oh, sorry, but somebody else is sitting here."

    So I moved to an empty table and just waited for everyone to finish stampeding and the lunchroom teacher to tell us what to do next. (1.Lunch.1-2)

    Even though his sister warned him about the lunch room being tough, Auggie isn't prepared for how awkward and crummy it feels to sit and eat alone. Where is that welcome wagon, anyway? Zero out of three kids who said they'd help Auggie are on hand to relieve his isolation in this highly visible social setting.

    I noticed not too long ago that even though people were getting used to me, no one would actually touch me. I didn't realize this at first because it's not like kids go around touching each other that much in middle school anyway. (1.The Cheese Touch.1)

    This entire chapter—"The Cheese Touch"—catalogues instances of kids freaking out about the possibility of having to touch Auggie, or dealing with the "emergency" of accidentally having brushed against him. So while the kids of Beecher Prep are getting used to the way he looks, they sure aren't working toward accepting him—instead they're working to keep him apart.

    They would take the longest way around me to avoid bumping into me in any way, like I had some germ they could catch, like my face was contagious. (1.Wake Me Up When September Ends.2)

    Great—now kids are treating him like he's contagious. The absence of normal human contact creates both physical and emotional isolation, and touch is actually an essential human need.

    If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing. (1.Ordinary.2)

    People can't even handle looking at Auggie. They're trying to pretend they're not shocked, but if they were okay with how he looked they wouldn't have to look away so quickly. This behavior kind of makes him invisible. By refusing to gaze normally at him, people unintentionally isolate him.

    I can't say I always wanted to go to school because that wouldn't be exactly true. What I wanted was to go to school, but only if I could be like every other kid going to school. (1.Why I Didn't Go to School.3)

    So Auggie's alone if he stays home, but he also worries he'll be alone at school because he won't blend into the crowd.

    Chapter 2
    Olivia "Via" Pullman

    I've always understood that August is special and has special needs. […] If I wanted Mom and Dad to watch me play soccer, I knew that nine out of ten times they'd miss it because they were busy shuttling August to speech therapy or physical therapy or a new specialist or a surgery. (2.A Tour of the Galaxy.2)

    Although August's isolation is the most marked and intense in the story, other characters struggle with their own versions of it. August's sister, Via, has been constantly eclipsed by August. His greater needs have simply resulted in Via often being the only person taking care of Via.

    Chapter 4
    Jack Will

    "It just feels so weird," I said, "to not have people talking to you, pretending you don't even exist."

    Auggie started smiling.

    "Ya think? He said sarcastically. "Welcome to my world!" (4.Why I Didn't Sit with August the First Day of School.5-7)

    For Jack, it's one thing to be friends with so August and see him treated unkindly by classmates, but it's a whole different thing to personally suffer that same social rejection. Auggie is there to support Jack even though Jack wasn't there for Auggie earlier because Auggie has been there and done that—and he knows all about how "weird" it is.

    I've got a form of the plague now, is what I thought. This is Julian's payback. And that's pretty much how it went all morning. Nobody talked to me. […]

    It felt really awful being at the table by myself. I felt like everyone was watching me. It also made me feel like I had no friends. I decided to skip lunch and go read in the library. (4.Back from Winter Break.3, 6)

    Jack learns that choosing to isolate himself intentionally is less painful than being rejected by others first. Somebody ask Auggie if he knows what Jack's talking about….

    Chapter 5
    Justin

    my family's not like this at all. my mom and dad got divorced when I was four and they pretty much hate each other. i grew up spending half of every week in my dad's apartment in chelsea and the other half in my mom's place in brooklyn heights. i have a half brother who's five years older than me and barely knows I exist. […] it's funny how there's a word like overprotective to describe some parents, but no word that means the opposite. what word do you use to describe parents who don't protect enough? under protective? neglectful? self-involved? lame? all of the above. (5.Valentine's Day.18)

    Though we don't hear much more than this about it, Justin's description of his home life shows his emotional isolation from his family. When all of Justin's tics go away while he spends an evening with the Pullman family, we see what a difference a warm emotional connection can make.

    Chapter 7
    Miranda

    So on opening night no one that was remotely close to me was even there. And the thing is, I realized in my third or fourth rehearsal that I was good at this acting thing. […] And on opening night, I can honestly say I knew I was going to more than good: I was going to be great. I was going to be extraordinary, but there would be no one there to see. (7.Extraordinary, but No One There to See.3)

    That not one of Miranda's family or friends bothers to show up for her debut in the play—which means so much to her—speaks to her painful emotional isolation. Through all his isolation at school, at least Auggie knows he can always count on his family, no matter what.

    After the divorce, I hardly ever saw my father. And my mother acted stranger than ever. It's not that she was unstable or anything: just distant. Remote. My mother is the kind of person who has a happy face for the rest of the world, but not a lot left over for me. She's never talked to me much—not about her feelings, her life. (7.Camp Lies.2)

    Miranda is physically isolated from both her parents, and emotionally abandoned by them. Unhappy with her reality, she invents—and broadcasts—a new, improved version of her life. She populates this version of her home life with a deformed little brother and a dog named Daisy. Imaginary siblings and pets? Now that's a lonely kid.

  • Family

    Chapter 1
    Isabel and Nate Pullman

    "We can't keep protecting him," Mom whispered to Dad, who was driving. "We can't just pretend he's going to wake up tomorrow and this isn't going to be his reality, because it is, Nate and we have to help him learn to deal with it. We can't just keep avoiding situations that…" (1.Driving.3)

    Auggie's parents are struggling with the prospect of sending him to school. They know it will be hard for Auggie to deal with kids' reactions, and hard for him to figure out how to fit in. But he has his whole life ahead of him, so the sooner he learns to win people over, the better.

    August Pullman

    I like it when Mom tells this story because it makes me laugh so much. It's not funny in the way a joke is funny, but when Mom tells it, Via and I just start cracking up. (1.How I Came to Life.1)

    When things are really heavy, laughter can lighten the load. It's not that the Pullmans bury their painful memories and moments—rather, the family makes a point of remembering their stories in ways that emphasizes the humor of a given situation.

    Via doesn't see me as ordinary. She says she does, but if I were ordinary, she wouldn't feel like she needs to protect me as much. And Mom and Dad don't see me as ordinary, either. They see me as extraordinary. I think the only person in the world who realizes how ordinary I am is me. (1.Ordinary.4)

    What does Auggie's family want to "protect him" from? And why do you think they don't recognize Auggie's ordinariness?

    "What's a lamb to the slaughter?" I said.

    Mom sighed and gave Daddy a "look."

    "I shouldn't have said that," Dad said, looking at me in the rear view mirror. "It's not true. Here's the thing: Mommy and I love you so much we want to protect you any way we can. It's just sometimes we want to do it in different ways." (1.Driving.34-36)

    Do you agree that sending Auggie to school is like sending a lamb to the slaughter? Do you think middle school is the best time for a drastically different-looking kid to join the mainstream?

    Chapter 2
    Olivia "Via" Pullman

    Mom took his temperature, brought him some hot tea, and assumed the "August's mom" role again. "Via's mom," who had come out for a little while, was put away. I understood, though: August was in bad shape. (2.October 31.5)

    Via and her mom weep together on the anniversary of Grans' passing, sharing their grief, supporting, and comforting each other. Via hopes to share all her school troubles with her mom—but she doesn't get the chance, because once again her needs are eclipsed by Auggie's.

    August is the Sun. Me and Mom and Dad are planets orbiting the Sun. The rest of our family and friends are asteroids and comets floating around the planets orbiting the Sun. (2.A Tour of the Galaxy.1)

    Via seems to have accepted this ordering of her family universe on one level, but she also gives us lots of clues that she is beginning to resent it. What kinds of things give Via the impression that "the galaxy is changing?"

    But she didn't come back that night. Dad did. He told me Auggie had had a bad first day and Mom was helping him through it. He asked me how my day had gone and I told him fine. He said he didn't believe me for a second, and I told him Miranda and Ella were acting like jerks. […]He said nothing tests friendships like high school, and then proceeded to poke fun at the fact that I was reading War and Peace. Not real fun, of course, since I'd heard him brag to people that he had a "fifteen-year-old who is reading Tolstoy." […] It was silly stuff, but Dad always managed to make everyone laugh. And sometimes that's all you need to feel better. (2.The Padawan Bites the Dust.11)

    Via was hoping to talk to her mom—she especially asked her mom to come back—but because Auggie's needs always trump hers, her mom doesn't come back. But Via's dad is there for her. He knows Via well enough to know she is suffering, and gives her the opening to share her sadness. He validates her feelings, and then he makes her laugh.

    "I love Auggie very, very much," she said softly. […] "But he has many angels looking out for him already, Via. And I want you to know that you have me looking out for you. […] I want you to know that you are number one for me. […] You are my everything."

    I understood her. And I knew why she said it was a secret. Grandmothers aren't supposed to have favorites. Everyone knows that. But after she died, I held on to that secret and let it cover me like a blanket. (2.Seeing August.13-14)

    It's nobody's fault: Auggie's medical stuff has, by necessity, taken up nearly all the bandwidth of parental attention in the Pullman family. Via's grandmother totally sees this though, and she makes it her mission to give Via the extra-special, high-beam love she needs. Three cheers for Grans.

    Chapter 5
    Justin

    She's a happy dog, like she knows she lucked out that day finding this family.

    I kind of know how she feels. I like olivia's family. they laugh a lot. […]

    olivia's family tell each other "i love you" all the time.

    i can't remember the last time anyone in my family said that to me. (5.Valentine's Day.16, 17, 19, 20)

    Via's boyfriend Justin wistfully admires the emotional culture of the Pullman family. They have made warmth and kindness habitual, and people outside the family often notice how good it feels to be around them. Justin feels so safe with them that by the end of the evening, his tics have gone away.

    Chapter 7
    Miranda

    One of the things I miss most about Via's friendship is her family. I loved her mom and dad. They were always so welcoming and nice to me. I knew they loved their kids more than anything. I always felt safe around them: safer than anywhere else in the world. (7.What I Miss Most.1)

    Auggie and Via's parents have created a family culture of caring, kindness, and love that extends to everyone in their circle. Kindness is a huge theme in Wonder, and the author really wants to show how much it matters on every level of human interaction. When families forget about kindness and love, people suffer.

  • Friendship

    "That guy made the funniest face!" said Jack as we sat down at our desks.

    "I know, right?" I said. "He was like, whoa!"

    "I swear, I think he wet his pants!"

    We were laughing so hard that the teacher, Mr. Roche, had to ask us to settle down.

    Later, after we finished reading about how ancient Sumerians built sundials, Jack whispered: "Do you ever want to beat those kids up?" (1.Jack Will.3-7)

    As their friendship develops and Jack sees all the weird reactions Auggie constantly deals with, Jack feels outrage on his friend's behalf. He's beginning to imagine how he would feel if those things were happening to him. Diagnosis: early-stage empathy.

    "Sounds like a plan." I nodded.

    "Thanks, Auggie," she giggled. "You know, that's what I like best about you. I feel like I can tell
    you anything."

    "Yeah?" I answered, nodding. I gave her a thumbs-up sign. "Cool beans." (1.Halloween.30-32)

    Self-disclosure + acceptance = key ingredients of friendship.

    But it wasn't just the way she looked that was different: she was acting differently, too. I can't say she wasn't nice, because she was, but she seemed kind of distant, like I was a casual friend. It was the weirdest thing in the world. (2.Major Tom.4)

    Miranda is suddenly exploring her identity, changing her appearance and redefining her social circle. Via, on the other hand, is a very steady kid—she knows who she is. So she's pretty weirded out by Miranda's departure from her former self.

    "Did Mr. Tushman ask you to be friends with him?" Charlotte Cody asked.

    "No. I'm friends with him because I want to be friends with him," I answered. (3.Weird Kids.5-6)

    The simplicity of Summer's response both affirms her friendship with Auggie and leaves no opening for "weird kids" to doubt her. Summer has perfect clarity, solid convictions, and great self-confidence.

    I do admit August's face takes some getting used to. I've been sitting with him for two weeks now, and let's just say he's not the neatest eater in the world. But other than that, he's pretty nice. I should also say that I don't really feel sorry for him anymore. That might have been what made me sit down with him the first time, but it's not why I keep sitting down with him. I keep sitting down with him because he's fun. (3.The Plague.1)

    Summer knows herself well, which helps her to accurately assess the good, the bad, and the ugly of a situation. More importantly, her self-awareness enables her to stay true to herself.

    One of the things I'm not loving about this year is how a lot of the kids are acting like they're too grown-up to play things anymore. All they want to do is "hang out" and "talk" at recess. And all they talk about now is who likes who and who is cute and isn't cute. August doesn't bother about that stuff. He likes to play Four Square at recess, which I love to play, too. (3.The Plague.2)

    Adolescence hits kids at different times and at different rates, and as this happens, priorities and interests change. The similarity of Auggie's and Summer's wavelengths helps to cement their friendship.

    Second of all, he's actually a really cool dude. I mean, he's pretty funny. Like, the teacher will say something and August will whisper something funny to me that no one else hears and totally make me crack up. He's also just, overall, a nice kid. Like, he's easy to hang out with and talk to and stuff. (4.Four Things.2)

    This is Jack telling us about Auggie. Cool? Check. Funny? Check. Nice? Check. Easy to talk to? Check. Sounds like solid friend criteria. But can Jack handle being friends with someone so unpopular?

    Fourthly, now that I know him, I would say I actually do want to be friends with August. At first, I admit it, I was only friendly to him because Mr. Tushman asked me to be especially nice and all that. But now I would choose to hang out with him. He laughs at all my jokes. And I kind of feel like I can tell August anything. Like he's a good friend. Like, if all the guys in the fifth grade were lined up against a wall and I got to choose anyone I wanted to hang out with, I would choose August. (4.Four Things.9)

    Is it just us, or is there an undercurrent of surprise throughout the chapter "Four Things" as Jack tries to get his head around the fact that he really likes Auggie?

    One of the things I miss the most about Via's friendship is her family. I loved her mom and dad. They were always so welcoming and nice to me. I knew they loved their kids more than anything. I always felt safe around them: safer than anywhere else in the world. How pathetic that I felt safer in someone else's house than in my own, right? (7.What I Miss Most.1)

    Miranda and Via go back so far they're practically family—we'd even venture that Via's family is more of a family to Miranda than her own. Over the school year, Miranda has been seeking acceptance, love, and validation through popularity. She comes up kind of empty-handed though, which helps her realize how important her old friendship with Via is.

    Yeah, dudes, thanks," I said, holding my palm up like Jack just had, though I wasn't sure if they'd high-five me, too.

    Amos looked at me and nodded. "It was cool how you stood your ground, little dude," he said, high-fiving me.

    "Yeah, Auggie," said Miles, high-fiving me, too. "You were like, 'We're littler than you guys'…."

    "I didn't know what else to say!" I laughed.

    "Very cool, said Henry, and he high-fived me too. (8.Voices in the Dark.41-45)

    The popular guys finally see Auggie for who he is, and they admire that he bravely stood up to the cruelty and abuse the other kids hurled at him. Choosing to defend Auggie finally makes him one of them. They've gone into battle together—and survived—so now they're bonded.

    But the bravest moment of all is, quite possibly, when Auggie holds up his hand for that high-five he doesn't even know if he will get. When he does get that unhesitating high-five, we know everything has changed.

    I heard Maya, who was next to me, give a little happy scream when she heard my name, and Miles, who was on the other side of me, patted my back. "Stand up, get up!" said kids all around me, and I felt lots of hands pushing me upward out of my seat, guiding me to the edge of the row, patting my back, high-fiving me. "Way to go, Auggie!" "Nice going, Auggie!" I even started hearing my name being chanted: "Aug-gie! Aug-gie! Aug-gie!" I looked back and saw jack leading the chant, fist in the air, smiling and signaling for me to keep going, and Amos shouting through his hands: "Woo-hoo, little dude!" (8.Floating.1)

    By the end of the year, all the kids in Auggie's class have come to accept him. And more than that, they really like him. (Well except for Julian, but he's switching schools anyway.) Looks like Auggie will be having a completely different experience in the sixth grade.

  • Kindness

    I walked toward Jack and followed him out of the auditorium. He held the double doors open for me, and as I passed by he looked at me right in the face, kind of daring me to look back at him, which I did. Then I actually smiled. […] The thing is, because of the way my face is, people who don't know me very well don't always get that I'm smiling. […] But somehow Jack Will got that I had smiled at him. And he smiled back. (1.The Performance Space.38)

    This moment comes shortly after Jack and August meet for the first time. Julian has already established himself as a jerk, and Charlotte is pleasant but stays neutral. Jack is the only kid to make eye contact and actually smile at August.

    The funny thing is, if he hadn't put the backpack between us, I most definitely would have offered to help him. (1.Locks.32)

    Auggie's natural inclination is to be helpful and kind, but he shows that he's not a total doormat when he decides not to help Henry open his lock. Henry has put up a wall—he's blocked his opportunity for help, for kindness, and for friendship.

    WHEN GIVEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN BEING RIGHT OR BEING KIND, CHOOSE KIND. (1.Choose Kind.27)

    Do you agree with this precept? Can you think of any examples that support it? How about any exceptions?

    "But if someone doesn't have a summer name and wants to sit with us" she said very seriously, "we'll still let them if they're nice, okay?"

    "Okay, I nodded. "Even if it's a winter name."

    "Cool beans," she answered, giving me a thumbs up. (1.The Summer Table.32-34)

    Kindness is the law of the land at the Summer Table. Both Auggie and Summer know that the best way to combat cruelty is with love.

    I sat with him that first day because I felt sorry for him. That's all. Here he was, this strange-looking kid in a brand-new school. No one was talking to him. Everyone was staring at him. […]

    It's hard enough being the new kid even when you have a normal face. Imagine having his face?
    So I just went over and sat with him. Not a biggie. I wish people would stop trying to turn it into something major.

    He's just a kid. The weirdest-looking kid I've ever seen, yes. But just a kid. (3.Weird Kids.8-10)

    Summer's kindness is so basic to her character she doesn't even regard it as anything out of the ordinary.

    I know, I know, I say, soothing her. You're entitled, Olivia. You've dealt with a lot your whole life.

    Olivia reminds me of a bird sometimes, how her feathers get all ruffled when she's mad. And when she's fragile like this, she's a little lost bird looking for its nest.

    So I give her my wing to hide under. (5.Bird.27-29)

    Via is really hard on herself when she admits that she doesn't want anyone at school to know about Auggie, but Justin shows her compassion and kindness. He validates the feelings she is so ashamed of, and his protective hug gives her shelter in the middle of her stormy emotions.

    I was so embarrassed I hid my face in my arm, but I couldn't stop the tears from coming.

    The guys were really nice to me, though. They patted me on the back.

    "You're okay, dude. It's okay," they said.

    "You're one brave little dude, you know that?" said Amos, putting his arm around my shoulders. And when I kept on crying, he put both his arms around me like my dad would have done and let me cry. (8.Voices in the Dark.52-55)

    The bigger, physically stronger kids are comforting Auggie. They are first shoring him up in a shaky moment, and then just being there for him, giving him a hug as he cries.

    "Okay, said Amos, "but, little dude, don't walk around here alone again, okay? If you need to go somewhere, tell us and we'll go with you." (8.The Emperor's Guard.11)

    No one has asked them to, but the boys are seriously looking out for Auggie now and they're not going to let any harm come to him. They've finally accepted him as one of their own.

    Here Mr. Tushman looked up at the audience. "Kinder than is necessary," he repeated. "What a marvelous line, isn't it? Kinder than is 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." (8.A Simple Thing.14)

    Which characters are "kinder than is necessary," and how does it make a difference? We want to note here that we've been kinder than necessary about Tushman's name this whole time—we haven't made a single butt joke.

    "If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary—the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God."

    He paused and shrugged.

    "Or whatever politically correct spiritual representation of universal goodness you happen to believe in…." (8.A Simple Thing.23-25)

    And this is why reading Wonder makes everyone who reads it a better person. Amen.

  • Courage

    Mom says the farting nurse turned out to be a very nice woman. She stayed with Mom the whole time. Didn't leave her side even after Dad came back and the doctors told them how sick I was. Mom remembers exactly what the nurse whispered in her ear when the doctor told her I probably wouldn't live through the night: "Everyone born of God overcometh the world." (1.How I Came to Life.5)

    It takes grit (and courage) to hang in there with people who are in the middle of really tough times. The nice nurse is, well, pleasant. But it is the now-legendary farting nurse who really hangs in there with Auggie's mom through what must have been agony: not knowing if her baby would live or die. The farting nurse shares her strength and courage unflinchingly.

    "Julian's a jerk," he whispered before Julian and Charlotte reached us. "But, dude, you're gonna have to talk." He said this seriously, like he was trying to help me. (1.The Performance Space.37)

    Even though he doesn't really know August yet, Jack goes out on a limb to give August a heads up about Julian (whom he has known since kindergarten), and offer important basic survival advice.

    We were all quiet for a second, all of us just kind of nodding, looking at the floor. Then I looked up at Julian.

    "The word's 'supposedly," by the way," I said.

    "What are you talking about?"

    "You said 'supposably' before," I said. (1.The Performance Space.40-42)

    Jack knows the ropes of going to school, and has just told Auggie that he needs to start talking. So Auggie musters up some courage, and pushes back against Julian's boorish behavior.

    "I'm so sorry, Auggie," she said quietly. Her cheeks were bright red.

    "No, it's okay, Mom, really."

    "You don't have to go to school if you don't want, sweetie."

    "I want to," I said.

    "Auggie…."

    Really, Mom. I want to." And I wasn't lying. (1.Home.25-30)

    Auggie is not unfazed, but he sure is not going to let Julian's unkindness stop him from taking this next big step in his life. His mom is rattled, while Auggie is resolute.

    I thought about this a lot, to be truthful. I have to say that I think the bravest thing I ever did was become friends with August. But I couldn't write about that, of course. I was afraid we'd have to read these out loud, or Mr. Browne would put them up on the bulletin board like he does sometimes. So instead, I wrote this lame thing about how I used to be afraid of the ocean when I was little. It was dumb, but I couldn't think of anything else.

    I wonder what August wrote about. He probably had a lot of things to choose from. (4.Fortune Favors the Bold.2-3)

    The irony of this paragraph may be lost on Jack, but we're loving it. He wants to write about how brave befriending August was, but also seems to know somewhere deep down inside that anyone who reads that paper is going to think he's a jerk.

    I heard Summer had sat down with August, which surprised me because I knew for a fact she wasn't one of the kids that Tushman had talked to about being friends with Auggie. So I knew she was doing it just to be nice, and that was pretty brave, I thought. (4.Why I Didn't Sit With August the First Day of School.3)

    Hey, Jack—you might want to start taking notes. Summer doesn't just talk the talk.

    he shakes his head like i'm hopeless. let's just say, he says, i'm friends with someone who isn't exactly the most popular kid in the school.

    then it hits me, what he's not coming out and saying: august. this is all about his being friends with august. (5.The Bus Stop.36-37)

    By this point in the story, Jack has learned that his friendship with Auggie is going to come at the price of his social status. Big time. But he's also decided that Auggie's friendship is absolutely worth it. So Jack finds the courage to stand by Auggie as his friend, even when everyone stops talking to him, leaves mean notes in his locker, and harasses him.

    Anyway, it's not that I care that people react to me. Like I've said a gazillion times: I'm used to that by now. I don't let it bother me. It's like when you go outside and it's drizzling a little. You don't put on boots for a drizzle. You don't even open your umbrella. You walk through it and barely notice your hair getting wet.

    But when it's a huge gym full of parents, the drizzle becomes like this total hurricane. Everyone's eyes hit you like a wall of water. (6.North Pole.5-6)

    Anything times a hundred is, well, a hundred times more intense. But Auggie plays it cool on the outside. He bravely hangs in there even when he's suffering inside, facing the storm of stares. It's good he is getting the hang of it; this kind of courage is going to be necessary his whole life.

    "I took Baboo back to my room, and I laid him in my bed and taped the little note to Mom on his chest. And then I covered him with my blanket so Mom would find him later. The note read: Dear Mom, I won't need Baboo, but if you miss me, you can cuddle with him yourself. Xo Auggie." (8.Daybreak.2)

    When Auggie decides to leave his stuffed animal at home instead of bringing it to the fifth grade nature retreat, he's acknowledging that he's brave enough to sleep away from home without a crutch.

    "'He is the greatest," he finally continued, "whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own. Without further ado, this year I am very proud to award the Henry Ward Beecher medal to the student whose quiet strength has carried up the most hearts. So will August Pullman please come up here to receive this award?" (8.Awards.16)

    Auggie has carried up hearts, and won over the minds of those who were—for a long time—unwilling to accept him. Through his courage and kindness, he has lifted, buoyed, inspired, encouraged, elevated, and inspired others all year long. Pretty strong stuff for a little guy.

    It's like people you see sometimes, and you can't imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it's somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can't talk. Only, I know I'm that person to other people, maybe to every single person in that whole auditorium.

    To me, though, I'm just me. An ordinary kid.

    But hey, if they want to give me a medal for being me, that's okay, I'll take it. I didn't destroy a Death Star or anything like that, but I did just get through the fifth grade. And that's not easy, even if you're not me. (8.Floating.8-10)

    Auggie acknowledges how difficult his first year at school has been as the person who is other than normal. But mostly though, what he takes away from the experience is that the experience is hard for everyone. He still believes firmly that he's "an ordinary kid."

  • Coming of Age

    I usually love when they talk about when I was a baby. Sometimes I want to curl up into a little tiny ball and let them hug me and kiss me all over. I miss being a baby, not knowing stuff. But I wasn't in the mood for that now. (1.Driving.41)

    Nothing will jar you out of tender baby memories quite as effectively as the contemplation of middle school. For his entire life up until this moment, his parents' adoration has been enough to make Auggie totally happy and fulfilled—but he realizes that what he needs more than that right now is information about the outside world.

    Dad had told me that he was really proud of how I'd handled myself with Julian and that I was turning into quite the strong man. (1.First Day Jitters.2)

    Auggie's dad gives him props for handling a tough situation independently and with maturity. It's awesome that Auggie has support like this at home, because it turns out there's a lot more that Auggie has to handle. As the story goes on, Auggie demonstrates more and more his ability and desire to handle things on his own terms.

    "So, what are you going to be?" I asked her.

    "I don't know yet. I know what I'd really want to go as, but I think it might be too dorky. You know, Savanna's group isn't even wearing costumes this year. They think we're too old for Halloween. (1.Halloween.17)

    In just a couple years, those same kids will come around and realize that no one is ever too old for Halloween. But for the time being, they like the idea of having outgrown it. Which is kind of a bummer for the kids who are still really into it. Seriously, people, let's get real: who outgrows candy?

    I'm having trouble keeping up. And there's a part of me that doesn't want to keep trying: why can't he just say what he's feeling like everyone else? He doesn't have a trache tube in his mouth anymore that keeps him from talking. His jaw's not wired shut. He's ten years old. He can use his words. But we circle around him like he's still the baby he used to be. [… ] That was fine when he was little. But he needs to grow up now. We need to let him, help him, make him grow up. Here's what I think: we've all spent so much time trying to make August think he's normal that he actually thinks he is normal. And the problem is, he's not. (2.August Through the Peephole.5)

    Uh-oh—sounds like Via's over it. Big sis wants Auggie to hurry up and grow up. Or wait—maybe she just wants him to be more normal. Can he be more normal if he's "not normal" to start with? Will growing up make him more normal? It's all so confusing.

    If we could, we would assure Via that Auggie is, without exception, doing his level best to be more grown up and more "normal" every single day he survives another day at school.

    "Were people nice to you?"

    "Yes."

    "No one was mean?"

    He put the PlayStation down and looked up at me as if I had just asked the dumbest question in the world. "Why would people be mean?" he said. It was the first time in his life that I heard him be sarcastic like that. I didn't think he had it in him. (2.After School.27-30)

    Razor-sharp, knee-jerk sarcasm: incontrovertible proof of adolescence. Auggie's sarcasm shows a level of understanding about the world that younger kids just don't have. For better or for worse, he's definitely figuring out human nature.

    The point is we all have to put up with the bad days. Now, unless you want to be treated like a baby the rest of your life, or like a kid with special needs, you just have to suck it up and go."

    He didn't say anything, but I think that last bit was getting to him. (2.Time to Think.18-19)

    Suck it up, put on the big boy pants, get back in the ring, yeah, yeah, yeah. When August balks, big sister Via pushes him forward. She loves Auggie and knows that he really does love being in school, and her age and experience enable her to see beyond the pain of the moment (whereas Auggie can't yet).

    I hardly saw Via at school this year, and when I did it was awkward. It felt like she was judging me. I knew she didn't like my new look. I knew she didn't like my group of friends. […] Ella and I badmouthed her to each other […] We knew we were being mean, but it was easier to ice her out if we pretended she had done something to us. The truth is she hadn't changed at all: we had. We'd become these other people, and she was still the person she'd always been. That annoyed me so much and I didn't know why. (7.School.1)

    While Miranda's all over the map with her friends and her clothes and her hair and her stories, Via maintains a smooth, steady course. Why do you think there is such a difference between how the two girls navigate adolescence?

    "I can't believe how much you've grown up this year, Auggie," she said softly, putting her hands on the sides of my face.

    "Do I look taller?"

    "Definitely." She nodded.

    "I'm still the shortest one in my grade."

    "I'm not really even talking about your height," she said. (8.Packing.28-32)

    What is Auggie's mom talking about? (What are moms ever talking about?) She's talking, of course, about how Auggie has become so much more emotionally independent since he started school, and how he's gaining a stronger sense of himself by defining himself and establishing himself within a community larger than his family.

    I put my head in the window so Jack wouldn't hear what I was saying.

    "Can you guys not kiss me a lot after graduation?" I asked quietly. "It's kind of embarrassing."

    "I'll try my best."

    "Tell Mom, too?"

    "I don't think she'll be able to resist, Auggie, but I'll pass it along."

    "Bye Dear ol' Dad."

    He smiled, "Bye, my son, my son." (8.The Drop-Off.59-65)

    That hugging and kissing stuff can be embarrassing for middle schoolers, and they need their parents to acknowledge that they don't need that baby-love stuff anymore. But even though Auggie wants his folks to treat him differently in front of his friends, he cleverly signals to his dad that he still values their emotional closeness by reviving their tried-and-true Auggie Doggie/dear ol' Dad routine.

    No, I think it has to do more with this particular age that you are right now, this particular moment in your lives that, even after twenty years of my being around students this age, still moves me. Because you're at the cusp, kids. You're at the edge between childhood and everything that comes after. You're in transition. We are all gathered here together," Mr. Tushman continued, […] "all your families, friends, and teachers, to celebrate not only your achievements of this past year, Beecher middle schoolers, —but your endless possibilities. (8. A Simple Thing.6-7)

    We can't say it better than Mr. T. (and we pity the fool who tries.) Coming of age: it's a process.

  • Principles

    "Who we are," he said, underlining each word as he said it. "Who we are! Us! Right? What kind of people are we? What kind of person are you? Isn't that the most important thing of all? Isn't that the kind of question we should be asking ourselves all the time? "What kind of person am I? (1.Choose Kind.22)

    The word Mr. Browne isn't saying here is principles. Adolescence is typically when people first take a crack at identifying and cataloging their personal values.

    "They said I could quit whenever I wanted to." He said this while he was still focused on a comic book he was reading.

    "But you've never been the kind of kid who quits things," I said truthfully. "That's not like you." (2.Time to Think.4-5)

    Via helps remind Auggie of the principles that make him who he is—and in this case, he's not a kid who quits things and she's going to hold him to that. Even though it's annoying to him in the moment, it's great that Via anchors him this way—reminding him of what is really important to him when he has lost his footing.

    "Auggie," I said, "are you really going to let a couple of stupid kids keep you from going back to school? I know you've been enjoying it. Don't give them that power over you. Don't give them the satisfaction." (2.Time to Think.12)

    What principles is Via advocating as she works Auggie over about going back to school?

    "But this is crazy, Auggie!" I said emphatically, pulling the new comic book away from him too. "You have to go back to school. Everyone hates school sometimes. I hate school sometimes. I hate my friends sometimes. That's just life, Auggie. You want to be treated normally, right? This is normal! We all have to go to school sometimes despite the fact that we have bad days, okay?" (2.Time to Think.16)

    There could be a hundred essays written on this chapter alone as Auggie says he's going to quit school. We'll keep it short by just wondering out loud how Via's "normal" might differ from Auggie's, how her "bad days" stack up in comparison, and how despite the differences between her reality and his she's still making the right argument.

    Some kids have actually come out and asked me why I hang out with "the freak" so much. These are kids that don't even know him well. If they knew him, they wouldn't call him that. 

    "Because he's a nice kid!" I always answer. "And don't call him that."

    Summer isn't afraid to defend August.

    "So you have to choose who you want to hang out with," Savanna said. She was talking to me like a big sister would talk to a little sister. "Everyone likes you, Summer. Everyone thinks you're really nice and that you're really, really pretty. You could totally be part of our group if you wanted to, and believe me, there are a lot of girls in our grade who would love that." (3.The Halloween Party.18)

    In response to this flattering but unfair ultimatum, Summer quietly leaves the party, choosing friendship with Auggie over popularity.

    "I didn't want him to say anything that would hurt that little boy's feelings. But it was very bad, us leaving like that. The momma knew what was going on."

    "But we didn't mean it," I answered.

    "Jack, sometimes you don't have to mean to hurt someone to hurt someone. You understand?" (4.Carvel.23-25)

    Jack often thinks back to his nanny's words when he sees August around the neighborhood. It's an early lesson in empathy and sensitivity that he files away, and later draws on when he is asked to befriend Auggie.

    So here's why I changed my mind. It wasn't so I wouldn't have to hear Mom give me a whole lecture. And it wasn't to protect this August kid from Julian, who I knew would be a jerk about the whole thing. It was because when I heard Jamie talking about how he had run away from August going 'Ahhh,' I suddenly felt really bad. The thing is, there are always going to be kids like Julian who are jerks. But if a little kid like Jamie, who's usually a nice enough kid, can be that mean, then a kid like August doesn't stand a chance in middle school. (4.Why I Changed My Mind.38)

    It's not that Jack wants to help August really—he simply cannot morally allow himself not to help him. Jack knows what the right thing is, even though he is still learning how to do that right thing when it's hard.

    "Mom? Am I always going to have to worry about jerks like that?" I asked. "Like when I grow up, is it always going to be like this?"

    […]

    "There are always going to be jerks in the world, Auggie," she said, looking at me. "But I really believe, and Daddy really believes, that there are more good people on this earth than bad people, and the good people watch out for each other and take care of each other. Just like Jack was there for you. And Amos. And those other kids." (8.Home.43-45)

    After Auggie's frightening experience in the woods, it's important that he not let it discourage him from leading a normal life. When his mom shares her belief that others, for the most part, are good, it reassures Auggie that his life won't be filled with traumatic experiences like the one at camp.

    But the best way to measure how much you've grown isn't by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade point average—though those things are important, to be sure. It's what you've done with your time, how you've chosen to spend your days, and whom you have touched this year. That, to me, is the greatest measure of success. (8.A Simple Thing.10)

    Mr. Tushman assigns higher value to building principles than stacking up accomplishments. While he acknowledges that both matter, he wants the make sure the kids' definition of success includes character.

    The strength of one's courage, he repeated quietly, nodding and smiling. He held up his right hand like he was counting off. "Courage, Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness. (8.Awards.12)

    That right up there, Shmoopsters, is the road map to greatness. So quick—grab a pen and write those four principles down. You can thank us later.

  • Identity

    Did anyone happen to notice the plaque next to the door of this school? Anyone read what is says? Anyone?"

    He looked around but no one knew the answer.

    "It says: "Know Thyself," he said, smiling and nodding. "And learning who you are is what you're here to do." (1.Choose Kind.23-25)

    "Know Thyself"—a compelling challenge for anyone with a pulse—is quite possibly the number one place to start in the Identity department. Which characters in Wonder know themselves best? Who has the most learning to do?

    "Why do I have to be so ugly, Mommy?" I whispered.

    "No, baby, you're not…"

    "I know I am." She kissed me all over my face. She kissed my eyes that came down too far. She kissed my cheeks that looked punched in. She kissed my tortoise mouth.

    She said soft words that I know were meant to help me, but words can't change my face.
    (1.Padawan.47-51)

    Although he's generally positive, upbeat, and funny, Auggie is occasionally overwhelmed with sadness about the way he looks. It's brutal, but the truth is that Auggie's appearance is an inseparable part of his identity. However, knowing so much sadness gives Auggie a great deal of compassion and kindness for others.

    I'm not saying they were doing any of these things in a mean way, by the way: not once did any kid laugh of make noises or do anything like that. They were just being normal dumb kids. I know that. I kind of wanted to tell them that. Like, it's okay, I know I'm weird-looking, take a look, I don't bite. Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to the school all of a sudden, I'd be curious, I'd probably stare a bit! (1.Wake Me Up When September Ends.4)

    Re-framing his other-ness in this Wookiee metaphor helps Auggie understand and deal with kids' general behavior toward him—but mostly, he wishes they would just get a grip, already.

    I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks. (1.Costumes.2)

    The sad thing is that a mask really does make a big difference in how people treat Auggie. Do you think this idea could actually work for him? What would be the benefits and drawbacks of Auggie wearing a mask when he first meets people? If people knew how nice and how funny he was before they looked at him, do you think they would react differently when they eventually see his face for the first time?

    "Your soul stays the same but everything else is different."

    "I like that," he said, nodding a lot. "I really like that, Summer. That means in my next life I won't be stuck with this face. (3.Warning, This Kid is Rated R.35-36)

    Auggie loves the idea of getting to have another go-around with a different mug. He's happy with his soul. But oh, to be free of the burden of his face….

    But would he still turn out to be such a kind, perceptive, and brave person?

    I mean, I don't want to brag or anything, but I'm actually considered something of a medical wonder, you know."

    He smiled.

    "That was a joke," he said. "You can laugh."

    I smiled and shook my head.

    "You're funny, Auggie," I said.

    "Yes I am," he said proudly. "I am cool beans." (3.Warning: This Kid is Rated R.47-52)

    When Summer asks Auggie honestly and respectfully about his face, he's got the run-down on his condition down pat, with a little tongue-in-cheek swagger in the mix too about how medically exotic he is. Treating the subject with humor helps to reduce its impact on the other aspects of his identity—when he cracks jokes, people think of him as funny and relaxed, not as deformed and anxious.

    i'm an awful person" she says through her tears.

    you're not an awful person, i say softly.

    yes i am! she sobs. it's just been so nice being in a new school where nobody knows about him, you know? nobody's whispering about it behind my back. it's just been so nice, justin. but if he comes to the play, then everyone will talk about it, everyone will know….i don't know why I'm feeling like this…I swear I've never been embarrassed by him before. (5.Bird.24-26)

    Via hasn't told her family about the school play because she has been enjoying the reprieve of no one at school knowing about Auggie. Via doesn't want "to be defined in terms of being the sister of a kid with a birth defect"—she wants her own, separate identity. And that's not wrong of her. In fact, it's pretty normal. But she sure does feel guilty about it.

    I'm not even sure why, but I started playing this little make-believe game with the girls in the camp. They'd ask me stuff about myself, and I'd make things up: my parents are in Europe, I told them. I live in a huge townhouse on the nicest street in North River Heights. I have a dog named Daisy.

    Then one day I blurted out that I had a little brother who was deformed. I have absolutely no idea why I said this: it just seemed like an interesting thing to say. And, of course, the reaction I got from the little girls in the bungalow was dramatic. (7.Camp Lies.4-5)

    Miranda, who are you? Not even Miranda knows. Don't like your life? Invent another. No wonder she ends up being such a good actor….

    I asked Mom to buy me a new rolling duffel bag because my old one had Star Wars stuff on it, and there was no way I was going to take that to the fifth-grade nature retreat. As much as I love Star Wars, I don't want that to be what I'm known for. Everyone's known for something in middle school. (8.Known For.1)

    Creating your image/persona/identity in middle school can be as much about showing the world who you are as it can about concealing and protecting your innermost self. Auggie's always going to have a special place in his heart for Star Wars, but he's comfortable with leaving the obsession behind in order to establish an identity that is based on who he really is, instead of on his favorite movies.

    Jack's version of the story was probably the best because he's so funny, but in whatever version of the story, and no matter who was telling it, two things always stayed the same: I got picked on because of my face and Jack defended me, and those guys—Amos, Henry, and Miles—protected me. And now that they'd protected me, I was different to them. It was like I was one of them. (8.The Shift.1)

    Auggie's the same person he has always been, but his identity in the eyes of his classmates has changed overnight. Finally. What makes the kids suddenly see Auggie differently? Do you find it a little disappointing that it took so long for this to happen?

  • Suffering

    Maybe no one got the Darth Sidious thing, and maybe Julian didn't mean anything at all. But in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Darth Sidious's face gets burned by Sith lightning and becomes totally deformed. His skin gets all shriveled up and his whole face just kind of melts.

    I peeked at Julian and he was looking at me. Yeah, he knew what he was saying. (1.Lamb To the Slaughter.20-21)

    That's some sneaky, fly-under-the-radar psychological torture. Not only does Julian insult Auggie's appearance with this comment, but he also draws a lot of unwanted attention toward Auggie, who is totally not ready for it.

    I could tell I was being stared at without even looking up. I knew that people were nudging each other, watching me out of the corners of their eyes. I thought I was used to those kinds of stares by now, but I guess I wasn't. (1.Lunch.4)

    To be strange looking and friendless, and to have both conditions on display for all to see, is a double-whammy that first day in the lunch room.

    I hate the way I eat. I know how weird it looks. I had a surgery to fix my cleft palate when I was a baby, and then a second cleft surgery when I was four, but I still have a hole in the roof of my mouth. And even though I had jaw-alignment surgery a few years ago I have to chew food in the front of my mouth. (1.Lunch.6)

    Auggie is self-conscious about the way he eats. Kids at birthday parties have not wanted to sit next to him because of the way he eats. It's messy, but he physically cannot help it—and now he has to eat lunch in public every day. Auggie descends into a pit of self-loathing over the way he eats, comparing himself to "some prehistoric swamp thing" (1.Lunch.6).

    Mom always had this habit of asking me how something felt on a scale of one to ten. It started after I had my jaw surgery, when I couldn't talk because my mouth was wired shut. They had taken a piece of bone from my hip bone to insert into my chin to make it look more normal, so I was hurting in a lot of different places. Mom would point to one of my bandages, and I would hold up my fingers to show her how much it was hurting. (1.One to Ten.1)

    The kid knows physical pain—he's had twenty-seven surgeries before the age of ten. Yikes. Do you think that having experienced so much physical pain makes enduring emotional pain any more manageable?

    I don't know what Jack answered because I walked out of the class without anyone knowing I had been there. My face felt like it was on fire while I walked back down the stairs. I was sweating under my costume. And I started crying. I couldn't keep it from happening. The tears were so thick in my eyes I could barely see, but I couldn't wipe them through the mask as I walked. I was looking for a little tiny spot to disappear into. I wanted a hole I could fall inside of: a little black hole that would eat me up. (1.The Bleeding Scream.15)

    We're willing to bet that not one of Auggie's surgeries made him feel quite this bad.

    Rat boy. Freak. Monster. Freddy Krueger. E.T. Gross-out. Lizard face. Mutant. I know the names they call me. I've been in enough playgrounds to know kids can be mean. I know, I know, I know. (1.Names.1)

    "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me." Nah, scratch that—words hurt.

    "You sure you're not up for the Halloween Parade?"

    "Positive."

    This surprised me. Usually August was such a trouper about his medical issues, whether it was skateboarding a few days after a surgery or sipping food through a straw when his mouth was practically bolted shut. This was a kid who's gotten more shots, taken more medicines, put up with more procedures by the age of ten than most people would have to put up with in ten lifetimes, and he was sidelined from a little nausea? (2.Trick or Treat.9-11)

    Since Via knows all about how much Auggie has suffered physically, she sees through his nausea fakery. She suspects that the real problem lies elsewhere, and gets the truth out of Auggie.

    "I bet he was like, hey, Jack, if you make friends with the freak, you don't have to take any tests this year."

    "You know that's not true. And don't call yourself a freak."

    "Whatever. I wish I'd never gone to school in the first place."

    "But I thought you were liking it."

    "I hate it!" He was angry all of a sudden, punching his pillow. "I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!" He was shrieking at the top of his lungs.

    I didn't say anything. I didn't know what to say. He was hurt. He was mad. (2.Trick or Treat.21-26)

    Auggie doesn't have to suffer alone or in silence. By dragging the painful truth out of him, Via gives Auggie the much-needed chance to cry and rage and unload some of his pain. And then by telling him he can have all her Halloween candy, she unleashes some serious magical healing.

    "Do people go out of their way to avoid touching you, Via?" he answered, which left me momentarily without an answer. "Yeah, right. That's what I thought. So don't compare your bad days at school to mine, okay?" (2.Time to Think.17)

    There are bad days and there are bad days. And unfortunately, Auggie is intimately acquainted with the difference.

    For a while, the "war" was all we talked about. February was when it was really at its worst. That's when practically nobody was talking to us, and Julian had started leaving notes in our lockers. The notes to Jack were stupid, like: You stink, big cheese! And Nobody likes you anymore!

    I got notes like: Freak! And another that said: Get out of our school, orc! (6.The Auggie Doll.1-2)

    Auggie and Jack are being ruthlessly harassed. Was your first thought that they should show the notes to an adult? Summer certainly thinks so. But these two don't want to be snitches. And they don't let those notes get them down. Instead Auggie and Jack crack themselves up by writing notes to Julian from an imaginary person named Beulah. By turning the whole thing into a joke, the boys take away the power of those notes to hurt them.