We are recently, recognising more than ever, the value of children’s book in their power to teach children empathy. Children’s ability to empathise is something we can and should nurture as there’s no doubt that it’s something which can be learned, particularly to young children.
J. Palacio’s young adult book Wonder has been around for a while. I read it when it was first released and was in love with the writing and the core meaning. A truly beautiful and important book. We recently held a brilliant event in Sheffield Central Children’s Library focusing on this book in which some amazing writing work was produced. In 2018 Wonder will be released as a film in the cinemas, and, now, this remarkable YA books has been made accessible for young children. This is the picture book version is called We’re All Wonders, written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio and published by Penguin, Random House.
To convert a young adult book containing some very complex emotional detail into a picture book is no mean feat, but this version is absolutely wonderful (literally). It tells the story of a young boy, Auggie (also known as Wonder), who has a facial disfigurement. Telling his story from his point of view, he explains, that although he may look different, he is just the same as any other child. He plays the same games, enjoys ordinary things like any child. Yet he gets badly bullied for his appearance. Auggie explains how this makes him feel, and how he uses his helmet to escape from the World. It sounds incredibly sad, and it is, yet there is an overall hugely positive purpose to this book. In the end Auggie meets a boy who accepts him, and it feels like the start of a happier journey.
This book has been beautifully adapted in picture book form. Auggie’s face from the original book cover, which has become quite an icon of empathy in the children’s book world, has been used here in the illustrations, and it’s so well done. The writing is very clear, concise and simple, yet full of emotion too. It provides a huge amount of discussion points for teachers and carers, to help children learn about empathy.
For me the real pinnacle of this gorgeous picture book lies on the final page with an incredibly poignant line – “Look with kindness and you will always find wonder.” It floored me and is an utterly fantastic motto to pass on to children. I think a line every school should have written somewhere.
This picture book is lovely to read, but its real purpose is to inspire kindness and acceptance in children and where that’s concerned it’s an absolute winner. Well done!