Wonder, the acclaimed debut Young Adult novel byR.J. Palacio, has been chosen by Mayor Marilyn Strickland as her selection for Tacoma Reads 2013, the city’s community reading program. Palacio’s novel tells the story of a young man born with a severe facial deformity who, at the age of 10, leaves the safety of his parents’ homeschooling and begins attending a New York private school. As the young man explains, “My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking it’s probably worse.”
Author R.J. Palacio will be featured in a free book talk and signing at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 6th at the downtown Main Library.
Copies of Wonder are now available at all Tacoma libraries and local bookstores.
Since its release, earlier last year, Wonder has popped up in classrooms and libraries across the country, bringing with it powerful messages on the themes of acceptance, civility, celebrating personal differences and choosing to be kind to each other.
A chance encounter with a disfigured child and then coincidentally hearing the Natalie Merchant song, “Wonder,” on the radio later that same day provided the motivation behindWonder, Palacio said. The author was at an ice-cream shop with her two sons when they saw a little girl with a severe facial deformity. Palacio’s 3-year-old son started to cry. Her 10-year-old son looked alarmed. She quickly pulled the boys away. Palacio never saw the girl again, but she did not forget about her. “I started thinking about what life must be like for that family, for that little girl,” That, she says, is how she came up with the idea for August Pullman, the main character in Wonder.
August, who goes by the name Auggie, was born with a misshapen face that has required many surgeries in the 10 years since his birth. After being homeschooled since kindergarten, he starts fifth grade at a public school. It isn’t easy being the new kid, especially since Auggie looks different from everybody else. The book takes readers on a journey, as Auggie and his community learn about friendship and acceptance.
Palacio worked as an art director and graphic designer for more than 20 years before she was inspired to write Wonder, her first novel. Writing the book helped Palacio understand how she should have treated the little girl at the ice-cream shop. “It made me realize that talking to people is better than running away,” she said.
“Author R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel ‘a meditation on kindness”‘ explained Erik Hanberg, chair of the Tacoma Reads committee “It is also an eloquent exploration of the nature of friendship, tenacity, and fear.” While it is written for young adults, says Hanberg, it is really for readers of all ages. “You will be moved. Your heart will be touched, and you will be changed.” The message of the book is all about choosing kindness. “It is a very powerful and positive message, especially more so in light of recent national events,”
About Tacoma Reads Together
In the aftermath of the tragic event of September 11, 2001, Tacoma educator Patrick Erwin sought a way to bring the Tacoma community together to talk about the issues which appeared to keep the community apart. Remembering What if all Seattle read the same book?, a project begun by Seattle’s Nancy Pearl, Erwin met with Mayor Mike Crowley and others to suggest that perhaps Tacomans should be encouraged to come together to read, reflect upon, and then respond to the ideas and issues raised by one good book – one book which the entire community would be encouraged to read and discuss. In short order, Tacoma Reads Together was born.
Each book is selected by the Mayor for the opportunities it presents to the Tacoma community to discuss critical community issues. These issues included racism and discrimination, the balance between the needs of the individual versus the rights of the State, immigration and cultural assimilation, and the ever-increasing role of science in our lives. The book selection (and the variety of programs that are scheduled for the first three months of each year) offers city residents an opportunity to come together with their friends and neighbors and talk. And listen. To learn. And to grow.