We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio.
Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, New York, 2017.
Picture book, 27 pages
Lexile: Not yet leveled.
AR Level: Not yet leveled.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This picture book follows a young Auggie, main character of the chapter book novel Wonder, through the park and beyond as he reminds us that we’re all wonders.
I’ve seen this in pre-order for a while now, and was interested but also a little worried that the author is just tapping into her previous successful novel rather than doing anything original. Then I saw it at Target and decided to buy it for my diverse targetpick of the month. Interestingly, Z picked this off of the shelf and requested that I read it to him. (I didn’t put it in his bookbin, it was on a family shelf and not in the kids reading area. Also, yes, our littles have their own bookbins. #teachernerdparent)
While I was reading to him, some of the others came hovering around to listen in. One of the girls said she wanted to read Wonder and could I buy it please? I reminded her we already have Wonder, but apparently it wasn’t shelved by the kids books either, so she hadn’t seen it. So perhaps we’ll read Wonder soon and then I’ll finally get around to reviewing it (even though there’s so many other reviews of it on the internet).
Back to this one – I was apprehensive because picture books can be so much more difficult than chapter books, and because the author was new to children’s book illustration. However, this book was a success. Anything that can get most everyone in the same room reading together is a win. It has a sweet message of acceptance, attention was paid to the details that bring life to a book and sustain parents and teachers through repeated re-readings. While I wished the book had given a bit more information on craniofacial differences, there is certainly plenty more information in Wonder.
The best part was the subtle diversity. A girl in a headscarf is portrayed as well as an LGBT character and a variety of skin tones and, based on the names, a variety of ethnicities too.
At times this felt like labeling, since visual shorthand was used to convey to children that these characters might have certain characteristics. However, I couldn’t think of a better way to include as many characters as possible in a brief picture book. I really liked the use of non-Anglo names for the characters and the page with all of the picture frames around the children.
At several points there are reoccuring themes such as Auggie’s dog Daisy (also mentioned in the text and an important part of the chapter book), a small blue bird who follows them around, and a ball that is also present on their adventures. It helped tie the fairly loose, poetic narrative together from page to page.
Palacio is not a master children’s book illustrator. If Wonder hadn’t taken off the way it did (it was well written, but many well written books don’t become media darlings), I doubt this book would exist. However, she has a solid grounding in visualizing and brings her book cover expertise and the tools of modern technology to bear in creating this book. I have no doubt her future picture books will be even better.
This book is likely to find its way into libraries and bookstores across America. Children will likely be drawn to it by its connection to the popular book and soon movie, which will fill in any needed context. I had doubts before seeing it, but this is a solid addition to our picture book collection, which the kids have enjoyed.