Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Children's Book Week: WONDERful!

Wait! And whoa there!
Before you read another line, be sure to enter, if you haven’t already, (1) our TeachingAuthors Blogiversary 3 Contest to win one of three $30.00 gift certificates to and (2) our separate autographed book giveaway of Guest TeachingAuthor Karen Schreck’s newest YA novel, While He Was Away.

Now, on to celebrating Children’s Book Week, May 7 – 13.  

Sponsored by the Children’s Book Council and administered by Every Child is a Reader, Children’s Book Week celebrates the transformative power of reading. It is the longest-running literacy initiative in the country, formally established in 1919.

Be sure to visit the website to learn more about official and local events, including author and illustrator appearances, accompanying activities for teachers, parents, booksellers and librarians and the listing of the 2012 Children’s Choice Book Award Winners.

I’m biting at the chomp, beyond eager to share the latest children’s book I read, re-read and took into my heart, R. J. Palacio’s multiply-starred middle grade novel Wonder.

Here’s the flap copy:        

     “August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facila deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school – until now.  He’s about to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid, then you know how hard that can be.  The thing is, Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face.  But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?"

Auggie introduces himself to the reader:

“I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.  I mean, sure, I do ordinary things.  I eat ice cream. I ride my bike.  I play ball.  I have an Xbox.  Stuff like that makes me ordinary, I guess.  And I feel ordinary.  Inside.  But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds.  I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go…..
     My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

     The flap copy is right:
     R.J. Palacio has crafted an uplifting novel full of wonderfully realistic family interactions, lively school scenes, and writing that shines with spare emotional power.”

   The Former Fifth Grade Teacher inside me wondered non-stop: how could Palacio present this grade and age so perfectly, portray the truths of the school experience so honestly?  Oh, to have a class with which to share this book today!  (I’ve emailed three teachers already recommending this title.)

     The Mother in me ached, kissing the top of Auggie’s head each and every time his Mom or Dad did the same.  So often we writers are told: kill those parents in Chapter One! The child needs to navigate the world on his own!  But the depth and glory of Auggie’s parents’ love for him, and his sister’s love too, portrayed honestly, warts and all, prove pure Show, Don’t Tell so Auggie can be brave.

     The writer in me simply sighed at Palacio’s craft, how she brilliantly chose multiple viewpoints to tell Auggie’s story so we the readers could see how others saw Auggie - for who he is, what he is and not how he looks, how she nailed each and every voice, and best of all, how she still moved Auggie’s story forward, in compelling scenes, September through June.

      It’s the little ol' me I am, though, who, along with Auggie and his changed-forever classmates, was different for the journey.  Auggie became everyone’s Hero, standing out and above the crowd because of who he was - an ordinary kid doing extraordinary things.

     The Library of Congress classified the novel [1. Abnormalities, Human – Fiction. 2. Self-importance – Fiction.  3.  Middle schools – Fiction.  4. Schools – Fiction.]  I wish they would have asked me.  I would have listed Kindness as the one-and-only classification.

      Auggie’s English teacher Mr. Browne shares a precept for each month of the school year; students copy the precept into their English notebooks.  Precepts, they decide, are “rules about really important things.”   September’s precept had me on my way, turning the pages late into the night, and it turns out, so was Auggie,  after heartbreaking hurts and the inevitable taunts.  “WHEN GIVEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN BEING RIGHT OR BEING KIND, CHOOSE KIND.”

    IMHO, WONDER is an important book.  Auggie Pullman is an unforgettable character.

     Thank you, R.J. Palacio, for showcasing the transformative power of literacy.

     Oh, and Happy Children’s Book Week!

     Esther Hershenhorn

Writing Workout               

Up for Auggie’s October Homework Assignment?

     Mr. Browne’s October precept read,  OUR DEEDS ARE OUR MONUMENTS.
     It was written on the tombstone of an Egyptian who died thousands of years ago and Auggie’s class was beginning its study of ancient Egypt.
     The homework assignment: write a paragraph about what the precept means or how you feel about the precept.
     Here’s what Auggie wrote:

     “This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do.  The things we do are the most important things of all.  They are more important than what we say or what we look like.  The things we do outlast our mortality.  The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they’ve died.  They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs.  Only instead of being made out of stone, they’re made out of the memories people have of us.  That’s why your deeds are like your monuments.  Built with memories instead of with stone.”

     What about YOU? What would YOU write?


Carmela Martino said...

I've heard so many good things about WONDER, Esther. I hope to have a chance to read it soon.

Linda B said...

It's a marvelous book, full of so many things to discuss with students. I like your assignment too, a good notebook entry for the class and for sharing. Thanks!