Tag: Children’s

A Double Review of Wonder

The movie Wonder starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, and Owen Wilson will be released this Friday, the 17th.  Kim and I both read it earlier this year and saved our reviews until now to share with you.  It is one we both enjoyed, and we are both looking forward to the movie.

Author: R.J. Palacio
Published: Feburary 14, 2012
322 Pages

Book Description from Amazon:

Over 6 million people have read the #1 New York Times bestseller WONDER and have fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face.

The book that inspired the Choose Kind movement.

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Jessica’s Review:
Dates Read: September 7-19, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 4 Stars

Wonder begins with this line: “I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.”  And you are not ordinary Auggie; you are so much more!  Wonder is ultimately an uplifting novel about August (Auggie) Pullman and his Fifth grade year of school.  He has never been to mainstream school before, so he is about to experience a lot of firsts.

“My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse”.

Among other issues, Wonder deals with bullying and how cruel kids can be based on someone’s looks.  As you read Wonder you will feel a wide range of emotions.  You will laugh and you will cry.

**Minor spoiler**:

For the extra sensitive folks, there is a small storyline that deals with the end of the life of the family pet.  If you are an animal lover, you can’t help but get emotional while reading this.  I listened to the audiobook, so I was thankful I was concentrating on driving. If I had been reading the book, I would have been crying my eyes out.

**End of spoiler**

There are multiple narrators and points of view throughout Wonder, and we experience everything that everyone feels.  The chapters are also very short which makes it one to read very quickly.

I look forward to seeing the movie. I saw the trailer and I expected Auggie to look ‘worse’ than he does on film. August is played by Jacob Tremblay, who also played Jack in the movie Room. That boy has some talent, so I know he will play Auggie perfectly.

Wonder is recommended. It is a book everyone should read.


Kim’s Review:
Kim’s Rating: 5 Stars

I saw the trailer for the movie based on this book and decided that I had to read it! Holy. Cow. Prepare yourself for all the feels . . . ALL of them. This is another one of those books that my husband took one look at me and said, “are you ok?” The last time I cried so hard during a book was during A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (maybe I should go back and do a review on that one too, huh.). Anyways, I knew this book was going to be emotional, considering I cried during the movie trailer. Wonder gives a great look into the minds of people affected by disabilities. And to say that people with disabilities are the only ones who hurt is incredibly unfair. August, Via, and their parents all must face life’s problems in various ways. Mr. and Mrs. Pullman have to learn how to let their children grow up. Via has to figure out how to accept her brother while trying to be accepted herself. And Auggie, seriously one of my favorite book characters ever, has to do the growing up. He has to learn how to deal with real life.

There are many of us who went to the same school with all the same people in all the same buildings with all the same teachers all the way through our educational careers. Auggie doesn’t have that kind of foundation. Homeschooled by his mom from kindergarten through 4th grade, he is suddenly faced with going to a “real school” with the normal kids, trying to overcome his abnormalities. This story takes place during Auggie’s 5th grade year, and Via’s high school freshman year. Transitions galore! Auggie tries to make friends, but how can he do that when everyone is too busy staring at him and trying to avoid touching him? Via has had the same friends since before Auggie was born, but she gets left behind when they redefine themselves for high school.

At first, Jack, Summer, Julian, Charlotte, and all the other kids at Beecher Prep just see a new kid with a weird face. But as the year progresses, they all learn those important lessons about how to treat people. As a teacher, I’ve seen the unpopular kids trying so hard to fit in. But I’ve also seen the other kids being forced to accept these misfits. I realize this is probably going to be an unpopular opinion, but I do not believe in forcing kids to spend time with each other. No, making fun of and bullying other kids is unacceptable no matter what. But insisting that kids do anything more than show a little kindness by saying a simple “hello” while walking down the hallway is unfair to both groups. I believe that forcing acceptance on kids does nothing more than shows those kids who don’t fit in that they deserve pity, and cultivates annoyance and antagonism towards those misfits by the kids being forced. In Wonder, Auggie has to deal with that same pity from kids who were chosen specifically so they could “be friends” with him. Can he make any friends on his own? I’ll be your friend, Auggie! I love you!!!!!

So I absolutely recommend this book to parents and teachers, most of all. I’ve already purchased a copy for my dad, who is a 6th grade teacher. But fair warning, lots and lots of waterworks. Seriously, I told my husband that I finished the book and his response was, “oh good! You cried so much!” Of course I did, you unfeeling Neanderthal!!!! ? I love him, he just doesn’t know how to deal with a crying woman! So please read this book. I leave you with the same thing Mr. Tushman gave to the kids during his graduation speech: “But in another book by J.M. Barrie called The Little White Bird, he writes, ‘Shall we make a new rule of life . . . always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary.’”

If you have not seen the trailer, watch it now, prepare for all the emotions, then watch the movie and read this book!:

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

El Deafo

Author: Cece Bell
Published: September 2, 2014
233 Page Graphic Novel

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: October 11-12, 2017
Jessica’s Rating: 4.5 stars

Book Description from Goodreads
Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school–in the hallway…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.

Jessica’s Review:

I don’t read or review many children’s books. I don’t have children so I feel I can’t give a proper review of them. Until I come across a book (or graphic novel in this case) like El Deafo! This is also my first graphic novel to review. This is a very important graphic novel that is also the semi-autobiographical story of Cece Bell and her experiences of going to school as the only deaf student in her class. Cece wrote and illustrated this graphic novel and she also came up with the name El Deafo herself when she was a child.

El Deafo begins when Cece is four years old; she contracts meningitis and loses her hearing. She uses a hearing aid, but sometimes the words she hears she can’t understand and she must rely on visual clues and lip reading. The graphic novel takes place over several years, so we get to see Cece grow up. We see how Cece adjusts to the hearing aid and over time she overcomes her insecurities.

Bell does a great job giving us Cece’s feelings of insecurities over the course of the novel. I felt everything Cece felt as I was reading it. It is portrayed so well as these were her feelings as a child. You also begin to understand what a deaf person goes through to try and communicate with the hearing world. It can be different for every deaf person, but I felt I learned something reading this graphic novel. It is great for adults too!

I can see this being a great book for younger children. El Deafo can help kids realize that everyone is different and how insecure and lonely others can be. This book could represent any disability that is out there. I did struggle with the ending of the book where Cece becomes the ‘class hero’, as it is not the best situation. I had issues with the teacher leaving the classroom without any adult supervision. That just begs for trouble. But it helped Cece to achieve what she needed.

There is an author’s note at the end where Bell explains some about the Deaf community which is also known as the Deaf culture. Every deaf person is different and there are many levels of deafness.  This is a graphic novel I think everyone should read. We need more novels like this out there to help children with whatever disability they have feel some empowerment.

El Deafo is a graphic novel geared towards children and the illustrations are simple, but the characters are expressive. There is a lot of detail given in each panel. The drawings help with the range of emotions Cece feels throughout the novel. Bell’s characters are rabbits and I found her explanation of this on Goodreads:
Because rabbits have big ears. I thought it would be a perfect visual metaphor to portray myself as the only rabbit in a crowd of rabbits whose ears do not work. Also, as a kid, I felt very conspicuous with my hearing aid cords going up to my ears…and showing those cords going way up over my head into my rabbit ears is pretty close to how I thought others must be perceiving me. Finally, you can’t top rabbits for cuteness!”

El Deafo is recommended.


The Great Gilly Hopkins

Author: Katherine Paterson
172 Pages
Published: March 3, 2009

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

This Newbery Honor Book from bestselling author Katherine Paterson will simultaneously tug on the heartstrings and cause laugh-out-loud laughter. Eleven-year-old Gilly has been stuck in more foster families than she can remember, and she’s disliked them all. She has a reputation for being brash, brilliant, and completely unmanageable, and that’s the way she likes it. So when she’s sent to live with the Trotters-by far the strangest family yet-she knows it’s only a temporary problem. Gilly decides to put her sharp mind to work and get out of there fast. She’s determined to no longer be a foster kid. Before long she’s devised an elaborate scheme to get her real mother to come rescue her. Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t work out quite as she hoped it would…

Kim’s Review:

I started out this book, hating Gilly Hopkins. No wonder she changes foster homes so fast, she’s a nasty little girl! And I know, she’s had a hard life, the foster care system is hardest on the kids, and I should probably have more compassion . . . if it makes it any better, I did kinda, sorta like her by the end of the book. She thinks she’s smarter than everyone else in the world. She behaves in horrible ways just to get a rise out of people. And she has to have her own way or she throws a fit. If I behaved like that, my mom would have tanned my hide and I wouldn’t have been able to sit down for a week! Yes, I know, compassion. She was abandoned by her mother, shipped from one house to another.

Thankfully, she begins to learn important lessons throughout the story. And the person who I loved more than anyone in this book is Miss Harris, Gilly’s teacher. Miss Harris found a way to relate to Gilly in a way that makes Gilly think she’s still in control, but is willing to learn and make changes. I’d love to think that I had, at the very least, a good impact on my students when I taught. My kids were a little older and not as troubled as Gilly, but being the one that the girls came to when they needed advice about boys, being the one that the boys felt comfortable enough with to come eat lunch in my room everyday . . . I’d like to think that I was somewhat successful. And Trotter was a saint, with such patience, showing Gilly and W.E. love, no matter what the situation. And dear old Mr. Randolph. I’d love to have a blind little old man coming to my house every night for dinner, if he was like Mr. Randolph. Even though this is classified as a kids’ book, I wouldn’t recommend this to kids. I would absolutely recommend this to teachers, but also to anyone else who wants a good, heartwarming read.