Review: Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R. J. Palacio

August 26, 2015 8-12 years of age, Kid-Lit/Middle Grade, Review, Short story 0

Review: Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R. J. PalacioAuggie & Me by R. J. Palacio
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on August 18, 2015
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
A few years ago, readers were captivated by the story of August Pullman, a young boy born with a facial deformity that prevented him from attending a mainstream school until he was in the 5th grade. Then, he began his education at Beecher Prep and, within a school year, transformed the thinking and behavior of classmates around him. The book that captured this story, Wonder, quickly became a New York Times #1 bestseller and won the hearts of children and adults alike.

Now, in Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories, readers get a glimpse of other perspectives of Auggie by three individuals who played key roles in his life.  Covering the timeline before his enrollment at Beecher Prep, then following his first year there, these stories give voice to characters who, while active participants in Auggie's life, didn't have a voice of their own.  The perspectives are quite varied, given the identity of the characters: Julian, the bully; Christopher, Auggie’s oldest friend; and Charlotte, one of Auggie’s new friends at school.

While this is not proclaimed a sequel, rather a companion to the Wonder story, fans clamoring for more will be handsomely rewarded Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories,  a gift that will keep Auggie alive in the hearts of his millions of fans!

I cannot begin to tell you how much my son (a pre-teen when we read it) adored the character of August Pullman. His story was so profound and continues to resonate within us, years after our initial read.  Children are often victims of bullying for a variety of reasons, but Auggie’s reaction, and the subsequent movement to change the thinking and behavior of his classmates around him, was profound. Auggie spent his entire life struggling to survive, overcoming unfathomable obstacles.  Rather than succumbing to the torturous behavior of his classmates, he followed the philosophy that we should not try to hide our differences but, instead, refusing to blend in when you were born to stand out.

So, in this series of stories (originally published as ebooks only), readers get a glimpse inside the minds of three individuals who impacted, and in turn were impacted by, Auggie Pullman.

Without a doubt, the one I was least looking forward to was Julian, the bully. I have never felt so much hatred for an individual (albeit fictional) than I did for Julian. In his portion of this book, we see behind the bullying: the motives, the explanation.  Palacio doesn’t excuse Julian’s behavior in the least, but instead allows us to see the reasons behind it.  Remarkably, Julian goes through a transformation of his own. It is not sudden, but painstakingly slow, guided and influenced by a story told to him by his grandmother.

I simply adored Christopher’s story. He didn’t have an active role in Wonder and wasn’t an active witness to what transpired at Beecher Prep. That said, we learn why their friendship, which started at birth, began to waiver.  An incredibly emotional perspective, imagining what it must have felt like to be the best friend of someone struggling with Auggie’s deformity. It was a weighty task, being emotionally overwhelmed with the responsibility of being so supportive to a friend struggling with so much.

Charlotte’s story could have (or should be) it’s own story. Her perspective is completely different, a young girl struggling to fit in with her female peers.  She, too, goes on a journey, but hers is one to overcome her own social awkwardness. Her use of Venn diagrams was absolutely adorable; I looked forward to each and every one of them with delight.

All in all, Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories is a wonderful addition to the August Pullman story.  This, along with Wonder itself, are titles that should be taught in middle schools as a means to discuss and dispel bullying. Both are truly remarkable and incredibly moving stories, ones that will have a lasting place in my heart. Highly, highly recommended.

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