Well okay then, just rip the beating heart out of my breast why don’t you.


Well okay then, just rip the beating heart out of my breast why don’t you.

Eleven-year old August “Auggie” Pullman has a genetic defect that makes his face look like Darth Sidious after he gets burned by Sith lightning, and boy does he know it.

Rat boy. Freak. Monster. Freddy Krueger. E.T. Gross-out. Lizard face. Mutant. I know the names they call me. I’ve been in enough playgrounds to know kids can be mean. I know. I know. I know.

All he wants is to be an ordinary kid and that just isn’t in the cards for him, but now he’s 11 and his parents have decided that it’s time for him to leave homeschooling and enter the fifth grade at Beecher Prep.

The book is told in first person first by Auggie, then his sister Via, his friends Summer and Jack, Via’s boyfriend Justin, and Via’s friend Miranda. (I do wish Julian’s voice had been included.) The voices are so individual and so convincing that sometimes you forget this book was written by an adult. The texts between Auggie and Jack (and Jack’s letters of apology) after the big fight are just priceless

Auggie: wud u really wan to kill urself if u wer me???
Jack: no!!!!! I swear on my life but dude–I would want 2 kill myself if I were Julian 🙂
Auggie: lol yes dude we’r frenz agen.

Auggie is different, he is other, it’s not something he can hide and it’s not something anyone can ignore, and this whole book is pretty much a teachable moment whose message could be distilled into two words: Be kind. People behave badly at Halloween

I’d been talking to Julian about August. Oh man. Now I understood! I was so mean. I don’t even know why. I’m not even sure what I said, but it was bad. It was only a minute or two. It’s just that I knew Julian and everybody thought I was so weird for hanging out with August all the time, and I felt stupid. And I don’t know why I said that stuff. I just was going along. I was stupid. I am stupid.

and with the plague and the shunning and at the nature retreat but the effort to ostracize and demonize Auggie fails utterly in the end. It’s partly because of Auggie himself, who all he wants to be is ordinary and is anything but. It’s partly because the staff and teachers of the school and some of the parents lead by example. But mostly it’s because of the kids’ own innate goodness. Maybe they didn’t know it was there before they met Auggie but they know it now. (Although one of my book club members with a vision-impaired child who was picked on a lot in school was more than a little skeptical about just how good these kids are.)

Palacio saves the best for last with the Postcard Precepts. Milo’s is so great, Julian’s hints that he may have learned something more than his mother wanted him to this year, and of course, Auggie’s

Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.

Auggie sure did, with a little help from his family and friends. And I would like to have seen that production of Our Town. Highly recommended, with Kleenex.

One quibble: According to the author’s acknowledgements this book was inspired by a girl she met in front of an ice cream store. Why isn’t Auggie a girl? Why do the writers of childrens’ books continue to favor male characters? It’s like Katniss Everdeen never existed. The 5th grade teacher in my book club said, “But Dana, you can’t get boys to read books about girls” and I said, “I’ve been hearing that since I was a kid. If writers and publishers–and teachers–keep catering to boy readers nothing will ever change.” If girl readers are force marched through books about boys it seems only fair that boys should be force marched through books about girls. And I have made grown men read The Hunger Games, so what is the big damn deal here???



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Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. I’ve heard that before, too. I’ve also heard it’s why Sue Hinton identified as “S.E. Hinton” — because otherwise no self-respecting boy would have read stuff like “The Outsiders.”

    Sick of it. Sick, I tell ya!

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