It can be tough to be different, especially during the middle school years. So think of the trials and tribulations a child with a facial deformity faces during adolescence.
The award-wining book “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio explores this issue from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy with a severe craniofacial disorder as well as those of his friends and older sister. The overriding theme of the book, be kind, has landed the book not only on The New York Times Best Seller list but also on many students summer reading lists. “Wonder” offers a poignant back-to-school message for adolescents and adults alike. In fact, some of the worst behavior depicted in the book is that of adults.
Palacio has carefully crafted an inside glimpse into the struggle of the main character Auggie Pullman as he transitions from home schooling to private middle school, all the while dealing with a rare craniofacial disorder called Treacher Collins syndrome. The book offers powerful messages for everyone, from typical kids to those who are dealing with physical handicaps.
Dr. Niyant Patel, a pediatric plastic surgeon at Akron Children’s Hospital, has read “Wonder” and can relate with the story line. He’s treated many patients who appear much different than their peers. And he’s excited that the movie will help promote kindness and acceptance to an even larger audience.
“Kids like Auggie face many challenges,” said Patel. “As a result of their condition, they endure many surgical procedures and doctors’ appointments. And then, everyday they have to deal with the rude reactions and horrible stereotypes people have regarding their appearance. Many of these kids are the target of bullies, unfortunately. And often there’s a misconception that they aren’t as smart as their peers.”
The book, published in February 2012, is sure to see another leap in popularity as the star-studded film adaptation hits theaters later this fall, starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. The book is easy to read and filled with both humorous and emotional moments that will entice young readers to keep turning the page. Dr. Patel says the more people exposed to the ideas promoted in “Wonder,” the better the world will be not only the children with these conditions but for everyone.”
“‘Wonder’ is a fantastic book to share not only with children with facial abnormalities and their siblings, but also with any typical child,” said Dr. Patel. “This book and now the movie promote the compassion and acceptance that every child deserves and highlights the bullying that goes on not only in middle school, but in life in general.”
Dr. Patel hopes the movie will help impact an even wider audience, generating an even bigger wave of compassion.
“I highly recommend parents put this book on their children’s reading list. I personally can’t wait to see the movie. I am hoping it will help generate further compassion at school and in the community.”