Book Talk: Wonder

R J Palacio, image by Tim Knox
Category: Reading

On this month’s Book Talk, guest host Sasha de Buyl tackles R. J. Palacio’s children’s novel, Wonder, along with screenwriter, poet and Leith Library's Reader in Residence, Emily Dodd, and performance poet and co-founder of Stewed Rhubarb Press, Rachel McCrum.

Wonder follows 10-year-old August Pullman, a boy with a severe facial deformity, as he navigates the tricky waters of a mainstream school for the first time in his life. Along the way, he encounters bullies and prejudice, but also forms strong friendships that help him get through this rather daunting ordeal.

The book’s tough subject matter is helped by a healthy dose of humour, as well as switching viewpoints that put the reader in the minds of various characters, though sometimes that comes at the expense of August, as Rachel notes:

Sometimes I found the other characters...stronger. I felt sometimes like [Palacio] wasn’t quite sustaining August’s voice, but the others were so engaging.

The world of the school—the politics and brutishness of childhood—provided another subject of discussion, with everyone agreeing it was well portrayed, though Emily was surprised to note that, unlike in most stories (and many real-life experiences), the boys were the cruellest kids, while the girls were rather easygoing and even ‘saintly.’

But the real debate was over how August was presented, and whether the story was primarily about friendship or an opportunity to use physical deformity and disability to teach children to be kind.

What did our panel think? You’ll have to listen to find out! Head over to the Scottish Book Trust podcast pagelisten on Podomatic or subscribe to our podcasts via RSS to stay up to date with all the latest podcasts!

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