If you’ve already read WONDER by R.J. Palacio, you’ll know why I’m begging others to read it. Sometimes there is a book that gives us a window into a character’s life that is so different from our own that their struggles become imprinted on our hearts. Auggie, the main character in WONDER, was born with a severe congenital craniofacial disorder. After being home schooled the first 10 years of his life, and needing many, many surgeries, the book begins just as Auggie is about to enter 5th grade.
Thus begins a year’s worth of interactions with his classmates that are sometimes curious, sometimes confused, sometimes cruel and sometimes caring. Auggie’s determination, sense of humor, dedication to Star Wars and sensitive heart make him the most real character I’ve read about for a long time (be sure to keep the Kleenex close).
If it was up to me, this book would be required reading for every 5th grader and adult in the universe.
WriteLife Author Elena Stowell (FLOWING WITH THE GO) is a teacher who truly knows her students hearts and eloquently states,
“WONDER is such a poignant story. Anti-bullying curricula are now requirements on most school campuses. Children, without disfigurements such as Auggie’s, are targets because they dress differently or act too smart, don’t watch the right TV shows or somehow just don’t fit in. Each time Auggie is ostracized readers will cringe because it’s all very relatable. Middle school can be torture. I’m sure most people remember an incident where they couldn’t sit at the “cool table,” or had a friend talk behind their back or were ignored by other students. WONDER is a book that educates readers about what it feels like to walk the world looking different with no way to change it. It teaches that above all else we have our resiliency, family and true friends to give us courage to be ourselves and go after what we want in spite of negativity that tries to keep us down.
R.J. Palacio uses the perspective of different people in Auggie’s life to remind us of our connectedness and role we play in the hurt and happiness of others. He also reminds us that redemption is always available to us; we can right a wrong, we can forgive and we can accept. Auggie is 10 years old, but the lessons in WONDER are ageless.”
And granted, while genetic congenital craniofacial disorders are very rare, every single day children are bullied for a variety of reasons or no reason at all. Here is a list of the self-help books by BQB and WriteLife Publishing for children on a variety of topics that may offer support and understanding to an important young person in your life:
Karen’s Epilepsy by Elizabeth Baltaro – Written and illustrated by a high school student with epilepsy, Karen’s Epilepsy is a 28-page story about a girl with complex-partial seizures. When Karen’s family moves to a new city, she wonders if her new classmates will befriend her despite her differences. Karen struggles with her own self-acceptance until something unexpected happens. Written with elementary school students in mind, this heart-warming story speaks to both children and adults. With reassuring words and pictures Baltaro communicates a hopeful message of friendship, confidence, and determination.
Squiggly Gets Glasses by Dawn Clark – Squiggly just wants to fit in, but it’s hard when he looks so different from the other squirrels at school. And the class bully, Archie, doesn’t make it any easier. But, with the help of his good friends and some great adults, Squiggly learns that being different doesn’t have to be hard—it can be fun! Squiggly realizes just how special he is, how great making new friends can be, and that he doesn’t have to look like anyone else, he just has to look like Squiggly!
Together Again by Laurie Stephens – Have you ever felt as though you have known someone forever when you actually just met? Or felt a connection with your child or spouse that has an effortless, timeless quality? Together Again: A Spiritual Adoption Story is the true story of such a soul connection between mother and daughter. Their story spans heaven and earth and thousands of miles as the two souls are reunited through the miracle of adoption. Their journey is spiritual as well as physical.
Eartha Gets Well by Kristi and Dr. Daniel Falk – Is it a struggle to get your kids to eat healthy, want to be active, and get outside for fresh air and exercise? Then introduce them to Eartha! Eartha Gets Well is a story about a little girl who never exercised, didn’t like vegetables, and was always sick. Eartha learns how to make herself, her family, and the Earth feel better! Throughout her adventure, she realizes that she can be healthy and happy by making a few simple changes. When she realizes how easy and fun it is, she wants to tell everybody!
The Ugly Bug Ball by Michelle Burns and Dr. Anissa Freeman – Stanley the Stinkbug is upset: he isn’t invited to the Ugly Bug Ball because of his stench! Garden meanie Prissy Pray refuses to let Stanley attend the party, and that makes Stanley feel really bad about himself. Will his friends help him see how important every part of him is? Will he let Prissy Pray bully him into not going to the ball? Or will he gather his courage and overcome his fears?
Bereavement Counseling in the School Setting by Dr. Luciano Sabatini – a former school counselor and director of guidance, offers a guide to school based professionals, especially those involved in crisis counseling, on how to assist students through crisis intervention teams, educational awareness and support groups. He shares his experiences in working with bereaved students and what he has learned from them in coming to terms with a devastating loss. He also offers school leaders best practices in supporting grieving students and in managing a school grieving the death of a student.