Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, is a book about a ten year old boy goes into fifth grade at a new school after being homeschooled for his whole life. What makes it even more difficult is that he has a rare birth defect that affected his face, causing it to be deformed. The story follows him throughout his year in fifth grade, as well as all of the obstacles and accomplishments along the way. It is written from many different perspectives, as each chapter is written from a different character's point of view.

I absolutely loved this story for 3 reasons:

1) It takes place in the fifth grade, obviously, since I teach fifth grade, but also the fact that the story focuses more on the non-academic aspects of school life, which is often what teachers forget is the most important part. The social life of a pre-teenager at this time of their life can critically shape who they grow up to be and their outlook on life.

2) As a father, I really identified with the parents in the story, thinking about what I might do if one of my children was as noticeably different as August was. How would I raise and parent him? How would I handle those situations? What would I say? How would I encourage him as he becomes a man?

3) As a person with a physical deformity (see: Mr. Riedl Has Poland Syndrome), I could easily identify with August in wishing I was normal, but at the same time accepting it and understanding that it can be used for good if I choose to look on the bright side of life. God made me different for a reason, just like Auggie.

Additionally, an accompanying short book, The Julian Chapter, is a fantastic way to end the story. Julian is the bully throughout the entire story, and at the end of the book we are left without his perspective. The Julian Chapter shows how redemption can even occur in the life of a boy who seems hopelessly stubborn.

Great reads!

--Mr. Riedl