5th grade. First day at a new school for Auggie Pullman. You can instantly imagine the emotional, social gauntlet this ten-year-old is about to run. Now try imagining it with a face that virtually has no ears, with the eyes sliding down into the cheek space, and more. Auggie has facial abnormalities. When people meet him or just see him at an ice cream store, they are stunned. Some are actually frightened. No one feels comfortable.
Auggie's parents have decided to send him to Beecher Prep in Manhattan and Auggie's gauntlet will include The Plague, a kid named Julian who bullies him and gathers joiners to aid him in his attack, the challenge of lunchtime in the cafeteria, a "best friend" who betrays him, a dog who adores him and parents who love him for who he is on the inside AND the outside. In Mr. Browne's English class each month the kids are given a precept to consider and write about. September's precept is "When Given the Choice Between Being Right and Kind. Choose Kind." With that assignment Auggie decides school is going to be right for him.
So, this is a book about seeing the world through Auggie's eyes and knowing how it feels to be behind that face. He's gotten used to the look of shock on everyone's face and he just walks the halls looking down so he doesn't have to see it over and over again. He needs friendship, acceptance and a chance to figure out who he is as a person just like everyone around him.
This is also a book about what it's like to be the other people in Auggie's life. Seems everyone has a challenge or two. There's Via, Auggie's sister, "Did you hear she has a brother who's deformed?" She has pretty much come to realize that her parents only have enough energy for Auggie and so she's decided to take care of herself, at least for as long as she can.
There's Jack who has seemed to be a great guy and a true friend for Auggie and who picked up a broken sled left behind in the snow because he couldn't afford to buy a new one and then heard one of the cool guys laughing that someone had taken the crumby sled he'd left behind one snowy afternoon.
There's Summer, beautiful inside and out who chooses to befriend Auggie. There's Justin, Via's boyfriend, whose tics disappear when he spends time with Via's family where everyone is loved and accepted. And there's Miranda who was Via's friend up until this year and who pretends sometimes that she has a brother who is deformed. The book is written in sections, shifting the point of view away from Auggie, into the lives of those around him. Everyone has an outside that we can see and accept. Everyone has an inside that we don't see unless we look really hard and maybe get permission to see. Everyone is yearning to be seen for who they really are. Not just their tan or their tics or their mask.
Read Auggie's story and Via's story and Justin and Jack and Summer and Miranda's stories. Think about your own story. Then, read Part Eight ...the rest of Auggie's story and figure out when you're going to give someone a standing ovation. This is a wonderful story about what really matters in our world and in our lives. It would make a great read aloud for 5th and 6th graders especially where empathy is rare and bullying is an issue. Start wondering and start looking for wonder.
313 pages Ages 9-13 978-0375869020
Recommended by: Barb
ALSC Tween recommended reads 978-0375869020