Archived Story

Celebrate differences in back-to-school stories [UPDATED]

Published 9:33am Wednesday, August 22, 2012 Updated 11:36am Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Backpacks are being filled with fresh school supplies. New clothes and shoes are being purchased. Families are squeezing in last-minute vacations.

“Back to school” is officially here. And while most children are probably excited for their new teachers, classmates, and school experiences, it is important to remember that there are those who are filled with anxiety and apprehension during this time. As you may remember from your childhood, school years aren’t always easy.

I wanted to review a book that deals with themes of being different, isolation, and bullying. It provides a powerful but positive message that may help children feel not so alone. My featured review is for the book Wonder by R. J. Palacio, which is one of my favorite stories that I’ve read all year. A short “further reading” list follows.


Wonder by R. J. Palacio

5th grade and up.

August “Auggie” Pullman is, in almost every way, an ordinary 10-year-old boy. He loves Star Wars, riding his bike, playing video games, and he (mostly) gets along with his older sister. But you wouldn’t know any of those things just by looking at him. You’d have to get to know him first.

Unfortunately, most people don’t give him the chance. Auggie was born was a slew of severe facial abnormalities that left him looking anything but ordinary.

Despite numerous surgeries, which he has spent most of his childhood at home recovering from, kids and adults alike have a difficult time looking at him, let alone befriending him.

When the frequency of his surgeries starts to slow, Auggie’s parents decide that he can try attending public school for the first time.

Up until this point, Auggie has been homeschooled due to all of the time spent in hospitals.

Like most kids about to start middle school, he feels anxious, excited, curious, and scared. Nobody will deny that middle school years are difficult to get through.

Can you imagine what they’d be like if most of your face wasn’t in the right place?

Needless to say it isn’t an entirely smooth transition but what you discover in this story will, indeed, fill you with a sense of wonder.

As the chapters progress, we experience Auggie’s life through his eyes as well as through the eyes of people who know him.

There are eight different narrators who share their views. What culminates from these different beliefs, opinions, and observations is a powerful message about courage, hope, and friendship.

Wonder is a must-read for both middleschoolers and adults.

All ages will be able to empathize about feeling different and not fitting in and it provides a gentle and graceful reminder to embrace differences and be tolerant of others.

Other great books with similar themes: Addie on the Inside by James Howe (grades 6th through 8th), Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead (5th grade and up), Wings by Christopher Myers (K – 3rd grade), The OK Book by Amy Krause Rosenthal (Preschool – K).


Arielle Krohn is the Youth Librarian at the Fergus Falls Public Library.

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