Picture book of the week: We’re all Wonders by R. J. Palacio, author of Wonder
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- Published on Wednesday, 05 April 2017 11:10
- Last Updated on 03 April 2017
- Monica Costa
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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.