Wonder discussion guide

Author: R J Palacio

Publisher: Random House

Suggested year group: 6

Synopsis:'My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.' Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren't stared at wherever they go. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all? Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

Reasons for selection:

'Wonder' is a huge publishing success, celebrated by children as well as parents, teachers and critics. It is powerful and emotive and the themes provide opportunities for rich discussion. It is a multiple viewpoint narrative and the way in which the different narratives are written is an interesting point for analysis and discussion.

Before reading;

  •  Have you read any stories or seen any films were the main character (hero) is different from every one else? Is it a positive or negative thing? Does this remind you of anything in real life?

During reading:

Section 1 page 3 - 34

  • It is initially August’s mum who encourages him to go to school, and his dad is more resistant. Why? (quadrant 4) After the school visit, their opinions reverse. What has caused this? 
  • What were August’s initial feelings about school? Do they change? How/why?
  • August has learned to spot when people are looking at him, even if they are trying to be subtle. What are the signs? 
  • A discussion about pros/cons of homeschooling. Pros eg August’s close relationship with family. Cons eg as he has grown older, childhood friendships have faded.
  • August’s mum tells him the humorous story of his birth. Do you think this story is entirely true? Why would she embellish/lie? Does August believe the story? 
  • The school visit – August is shown around by Charlotte, Julian, Jack. How do they respond/react to him? 

Section 2 p 35 - 250

P35 – P250 (maybe split into two sections? Much longer than Section 1 or 3)

  • Via – “August is the sun. Me and Mom and Dad are planets orbiting the sun… I’m used to how the Universe works. I’ve never minded because it’s all I’ve ever known.” What does Via mean by this? Do you think she really has ‘never minded’? Is August aware of how he has impacted her life
  • “But this year there seems to be a shift in the cosmos. The galaxy is changing. Planets are falling out of alignment.” Does this mean that Via does not agree with August going to school? Is this what she is referring to?
  • Via describes August’s face in detail, the first time we have a clear picture of what he looks like. Does her description match up to how you had pictured him? (Quadrant 3) Why do you think August has chosen not to describe his face before (only saying “I can’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”)? 
  • August hears Jack saying unkind things about him. What did Jack say?Why do you think he said those things, even though we know he really likes August? 
  • Symbolism: the astronaut helmet. Given to August by Miranda, who was proud of the gift that August wore constantly when he was younger. It was thrown away by his dad. Why? What did the helmet mean/symbolise to the characters? 
  •  ‘Letters, Emails, Facebook, Texts’: Why include these correspondences instead of a straight narrative?  Who do they involve?  What do you think of Julian’s mum’s reaction to August? Is he ‘handicapped’? Does he ‘place… burdens or hardships on these young, impressionable minds’? Do you think Julian’s mum’s email could explain why he treats August so badly? 

Section 3 p 251 - end

  • The end of August’s story is positive and hopeful. What could his future bring? (getting a job/uni/encountering new people). 
  • The school trip. What happens?  Why is it a turning point?  Why do August’s former bullies come to his aid? 
  • The prize giving. What prize does August receive? . What does this prize mean? What has caused this honour? What does it mean to August? His peers’ reaction – is it expected by August? Is it expected by us?

After reading:

  • “The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honour heroes after they've died. They're like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honour the pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, they're made out of the memories people have of you.”
  • Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world.”
  • “Jack, sometimes you don't have to be mean to hurt someone.”
  •  “We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.”

 

  • 'Wonder' is written from many different viewpoints. How many, and who are they? Why has the author chosen to write from different viewpoints?Is there anything that makes it obvious that the viewpoint has changed? (Quadrant 2) i.e. language, use of upper/lower case, grammar.
  • The first sentence of the book is “I know I’m not an ordinary ten year old kid.” On P306 “To me, though, I'm just me. An ordinary kid.” Find other quotations where August and other characters support or deny this.
 

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