The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 29, 2013

Jeana Gockley: 'Wonder' a winner, medal or not

By Jeana Gockley
Globe Columnist

— Librarians and book enthusiasts around the country are gearing up to find out the winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal, given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. The award will be announced on Monday at the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting.

There has been much speculation about which book will win this year, but one that keeps popping up on mock Newbery lists across the country is R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder.”

Essentially, “Wonder” is the story of August (Auggie) Pullman’s fifth-grade year, however, it is so much more. I was lucky enough to read it early in 2012 right after it was released, and I immediately thought, “Wow! This is definitely a Newbery contender.”

In many ways, Auggie is like most other fifth-graders — he likes to play Xbox, he has a pet dog, and he is passionate about Star Wars. Physically, however, he is extremely different. Sadly, this difference is completely beyond Auggie’s control, because he was born with a severe facial deformity.

It affects almost all areas of his life. Two major areas include going to school and making friends. Previously, Auggie was home-schooled; not because of his appearance, but because he had to undergo numerous surgeries and therapies that prevented him from having a regular schedule. Not going to school has limited his ability to socialize  and navigate the outside world, so before his fifth-grade school year begins, his parents decide — after much soul-searching and debate — that he should attend Beecher Prep Middle School.

Middle school can be hard even under the best of circumstances, but it is especially challenging for Auggie. He wants nothing more than to be treated like everyone else, but it is difficult for most of his fellow students to get past his physical imperfections.

Though hard to stomach at times, this is one title that everyone — children, teens and adults — should read. It is amazing! Auggie is a rare gem readers will be hard-pressed to forget.

Do not miss one of the best books of 2012, regardless if it snags the shiny Newbery Medal. Join Auggie and his family and friends as they discover what one boy’s courage can accomplish during the course of a school year.



Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at Joplin Public Library.