Picture book of the week: We’re all Wonders by R. J. Palacio, author of Wonder

A fantastic picture book tie-in We're all Wonders, inspired by R. J. Palacio's beautiful novel Wonder, has just been published to coincide with the film release Wonder on 17 November 2017 based on the New York Times bestseller and starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay, . For those who don't know this book, Wonder tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade.  As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to discover their compassion and acceptance, Auggie's extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can't blend in when you were born to stand out. Wonder is one of the best youth novels of all time to say the least. I have read it and shared my thoughts with my 10 year old son who also read the picture book version of the novel.

If anything, Wonder and We're all Wonders are the best books for children ever written with highly compassionate and educational messages. While you read and get to know Auggie, you don't realise how compassionate you become towards other human beings.

To give you an idea of how popular this story is, the novel has been published in 45 languages, and has sold more than five million copies worldwide. The book’s message has inspired kindness and anti-bullying campaigns across the world.

R. J. Palacio was overwhelmed by the success of her novel and requests to write a younger version of the novel. We're all Wonders is her answer to these requests.

I'd like to quote her own words to explain how she has created this wonderful picture book: “Given my background, the idea of making a picture book had been planted in my mind for a while, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to do it. And then Erin and Knopf’s art director, Isabel Warren-Lynch, came up with the idea of basing a picture book on the very beginning of Wonder, when Auggie realizes he isn’t an ordinary kid. That really struck a note with me. We’re All Wonders came together very quickly in my mind after that. I think Wonder’s first-person narrative strikes a chord with middle-grade readers and draws them into Auggie’s story. So I decided the best way to convey the message of kindness in a picture book, without being didactic, was to again use Auggie’s voice, to make it easier for kids to identify with him and know how he feels, and to help them understand that difference is not to be feared—it is what makes us wonders.”

Auggie’s look in We're all Wonders is based on the iconic jacket for Wonder, which resulted in an image that has captured the imagination of readers everywhere.

Both Wonder and We're all Wonders have a strong anti-bullying message. R. J. Palacio has explained how she remembered experiencing some sort of bullying in her life, and wanted to show the many forms besides the more obvious physical kinds that occur. 'There’s social isolation. There’s ridicule. There’s abandonment of friends.'

She wanted to showcase it in an extreme scenario. She can describe so well the classic bullying modus operandi: 'find someone in every crowd that can be at the bottom of the pecking order. That’s what Auggie was to Julian—someone to be at the bottom of the food chain. The Julians of the world always need somebody to put down to feel elevated themselves. It’s a very primitive feeling, about as emotionally immature as a person can be.'

When I get asked what my favourite youth novels of all time are, I would mention Little Women, Harry Potter and Wonder (although I read the last two when I was already a grown up). R. J. Palacio's book has touched me like no other novel in my lifetime.       I cannot wait to see how Wonder has been turned into a movie. I have no doubt Julia Roberts won't disappoint in her role as Auggie's mother.
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About Monica Costa

Monica Costa founded London Mums in September 2006 after her son Diego’s birth together with a group of mothers who felt the need of meeting up regularly to share the challenges and joys of motherhood in metropolitan and multicultural London. London Mums is the FREE and independent peer support group for mums and mumpreneurs based in London http://londonmumsmagazine.com and you can connect on Twitter @londonmums