It’s the age old question asked by any film or print fan around the planet. I know how many times I’ve been asked, ‘why would you read that, they made a movie?’ Obviously it’s because the book is always better.
But is it really?
August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?
R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.
Wonder was a really special book for me. The author wrote it for middle grade children, and it has such a powerful message. It’s all about choosing kindness. “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer. That was one of the most powerful quotes from the story, it’s the foundation of everything that happens with Auggie. It was so beautiful that as soon as I finished it, I started reading it out loud to my husband and daughter. I believe that Wonder should be required reading in 5th and 6th grade, because there could never be enough stories about kindness, I think.
There was more than just the overall lesson of being kind, it was also in the different depths to the story that made a huge impact on me. We got to see Auggie’s sister Via from his perspective, and then we got to see how she saw herself. We got to read that a child who’s a bully maybe doesn’t want to be, but that’s the environment he was raised in.
It was the perfect story for young kids. As adults, we love the realistic stories that don’t have the perfect endings, but for our children we should push books toward them that showcase good people. Where everyone gets the standing ovation in the end. It should be as beautiful and inspiring as possible. And that’s everything that RJ Palacio’s story was. Inspiring.
The movie was pretty well done, actually. I thought that the screenplay managed to capture all of the important moments in the book, almost too perfectly because the movie did start to drag a little. I believe that a good book adaptation should know what to trim out, because there’s usually far too much in a book. I also teared up during the movie, more than I did in the book. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson nailed their love for their children perfectly. Their scenes got to me most, probably because parents will relate more to their emotions than to Via or Auggie’s. I also thought the kids, the entire group, did an amazing job of capturing the essence of the characters. I particularly loved watching Auggie and Jack Will’s friendship come to life.
As good as the movie was, the book was still better. It was in the detail, the pacing was much better, but it was also in how my favorite speech was cut down.
I’m not a religious person, and in fact a religious slant in a book usually turns me off, but in Principal Tushman’s speech I thought there was something special in the idea of treating others with kindness being ‘the face of God’. It was the only ‘God’ reference, and it was handled in a sensitive way. Whenever I sit and think about reading Wonder, that speech is the first thing that pops into my head. The movie would have been better if it had been left in.