Tuesday, October 22, 2013

WONDER by R.J. Palacio

It's been a long, long time since I've posted a book review. And it's not like I haven't read outstanding books in the past year. I have. Oh, I have. But, if there's one book, just one book, you decide to pick up (especially as a read aloud with young people), please let it be WONDER. I'm about a year late (as usual), but here it goes anyway...




I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. 
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. 

I began this book by reading an online excerpt and crying. Yep. Just from the excerpt. It broke my heart. It broke my heart because I remember middle school very vividly and I remember what it feels like to imagine that everyone is looking at you and making fun of you and judging you. I now understand that everyone felt that way and for the most part everyone was just looking at themselves and feeling insecure, but this book broke my heart because all of the sudden everyone was looking at Auggie. It made me wish I could have a do-over and go back to middle school and find the person who most needed a friend and be a friend. Back then, I wasn't quite strong enough to be a Summer (read the book and you'll meet Summer and you'll wish you could have a do-over too). But I'm really, really hoping I can pass along some courage to my own children.

Despite the fact that I can't go back, I can talk about this book and buy it as a present and share it with my kids. It can help start a conversation about kindness and opening up your heart and being a friend. It can help you feel and understand what it might be like in another person's shoes. And it will most definitely make you cry. Heartbreaking tears that hurt your throat, but also happy tears as you watch Auggie grow and change and live.

I loved this one. My daughter is not quite old enough to understand everything I'd like her to understand, so I'll count down the days. Or maybe start reading aloud to a random ten-year-old on the street.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

They say it's your birthday!

Dear Lisa,
Happy Birthday, sister. I thought it was only appropriate on this very special day in October to dig through my Student Portfolio and personal writings and find a poem I'm not sure I ever shared with you back in '94. This was written shortly after my own birthday when I asked to borrow a certain pair of stinky clogs.

They looked a little like this:


Remember?

We looked like this:

You said no. I wrote this:

Look in my eyes, see who I am.
I am not you, I am me.
See in my heart, all there is to see.
Try to see the good, it is truly there.
Be who I am, just try to think,
what it would be like to be me.
I think different, I am not you.
You always yell, you always scream,
just try to think how I feel.
Your screams put a bruise on my heart.
You may not know, but they do.
I try to ask, but listen you won't.
My words seem to vanish, as if never heard.
Stop for a moment, listen to me.
It is as if some hate beneath you,
is given to me.
What is it?
What is so wrong with me?
The words that mean so much were never said.
I try to understand.
My heart just waited.
No more will I wait.

BAM. I really wanted those clogs. BUT...you made up for all of it by telling me you got me a special present. A Debbie Gibson HAT. I had visions of grandeur. Visions of this: 

It looked like this:
I still love you, anyway. Happy Birthday to my sister! If you want to borrow anything of mine today, it's YOURS. Kids? What? You want to celebrate with my kids? That can be arranged. I love you!

Love,
Laura