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Book Talk: How One Unkind Moment Gave Way To 'Wonder'

Editor’s Note:  This book has been around, I understand, for the better part of a year now.  I had never heard of it until I was listening to NPR radio late last week.    It seems like a wonderful book that our readers would really enjoy!
wonderIn Wonder, R.J. Palacio tells the story of Auggie, a tough, sweet, 10-year-old boy, who was born with distorted facial features — a “craniofacial difference” caused by an anomaly in his DNA.
Palacio tells NPR’s Michele Norris that the book was inspired by a real-life encounter with her own kids six years ago. They were at an ice cream store and sat next to a little girl with a severe facial deformity. Palacio’s 3-year-old son cried in fear, so the author grabbed her kids and fled. She was trying to protect the girl but also avoid her own discomfort.
“I was really angry at myself afterwards for the way I had responded,” she admits. “What I should have done is simply turned to the little girl and started up a conversation and shown my kids that there was nothing to be afraid of. But instead what I ended up doing was leaving the scene so quickly that I missed that opportunity to turn the situation into a great teaching moment for my kids. And that got me thinking a lot about what it must be like to … have to face a world every day that doesn’t know how to face you back.”
Palacio started writing the book that night. She says Auggie’s character came to her fully formed. The book opens as he enters school and the story unfolds from several points of view — we get the perspective of his sister, his parents, his best friends, the do-gooders and the mean kids. One of Auggie’s teacher challenges the kids: “When given the choice between being right, or being kind, choose kind.”
And at the center of all these stories is the same challenge Palacio faced back at the ice cream store: how to confront the discomfort around difference; how to “choose kindness.”
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