You can't blend in when you were born to stand out.
My name is August. I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don't get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school - and he's dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people around him whose lives he touches forever, Wonder is a funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.
Wonder book trailer
How does the book trailer persuade an audience to read the novel Wonder? Discuss visual features and also sound.
Questions to discuss
1. Don’t judge a boy by his face
What do you think of the line ‘Don’t judge a boy by his face’ which appears on the back cover of the book?
Did this affect how much you wanted to read the story?
How much did this line give away about the story you were about to read?
2. Auggie’s appearance
Throughout Wonder, Auggie describes the way that many people react to seeing his face for the first time: by immediately looking away. Have you ever been in a situation where you have responded like this to seeing someone different? Having now read Wonder, how do you feel about this now?
Auggie’s face is not fully described until quite far on in the story, in Via’s chapter ‘August: Through the Peephole’. How close was this description to your own mental picture of Auggie? Did you have a picture of his face in your mind while reading the book? Did this description alter that picture?
3. Auggie’s personality
How would you describe Auggie as a person in the first few chapters of the book? What about the final few chapters? Has he changed significantly? Are there any experiences or episodes during the story that you think had a particular effect on him? If so, how?
4. The astronaut helmet
In the chapter ‘Costumes’ Auggie describes the astronaut helmet that he wore constantly as a younger child. We later learn that Miranda was the one to give Auggie the helmet, and is proud of the gift, but that it was Auggie’s father who threw it away. What do you think the helmet signifies to each of these characters and why do you think they all view it so differently?
5. Star Wars
Star Wars is one of Auggie’s passions. Why do you think this is?
Do you see any reasons for Auggie to identify with these characters, or to aspire to be like them?
6. The use of humor in Wonder
Auggie’s parents bring Auggie around to the idea of attending school by joking with him about Mr Tushman’s name, and telling him about their old college professor, Bobbie Butt. To what extent is humour used as a tool throughout Wonder to diffuse difficult or tense situations, or to convey a part of the story that would otherwise be depressing or sad? Look at the chapter, ‘How I Came To Life’.
What did you think of Via as a character? Did you empathise with her?
Why do you think Via was so angry to learn that Auggie cut off his Padawan braid?
Do you think Via’s own attitude towards her brother changes throughout the story?
8. Mrs Albans
Look at the emails between Mr Tushman, Julian’s parents and Jack’s parents in the chapter ‘Letters, Emails, Facebook, Texts’. Up to this point in the story we have seen how the children at Auggie’s school have reacted to him. Is Mrs Albans’ attitude towards Auggie different?
What do you make of her statement that Auggie is handicapped?
Do you think she is correct in saying that asking ‘ordinary’ children, such as Julian, to befriend Auggie places a burden on them?
9. At the ice cream parlor:
The author has explained that she was inspired to write Wonder after an experience at a local ice cream parlour, very similar to the scene described in the chapter ‘Carvel’, where Jack sees Auggie for the first time. In this scene, Jack’s babysitter Veronica chooses to get up and quickly walk Jack and his little brother Jamie away from Auggie, rather than risk Jamie saying something rude or hurtful. What do you think you would have done, if put in that position?
Accessed from http://rjpalacio.com/for-teachers.html 3/06/2015
Precepts to live by
10. The precepts (rules to live by)
- "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind." —Dr. Wayne Dyer
- "Your deeds are your monuments." —Inscription on ancient Egyptian tomb
- "Have no friends not equal to yourself." —Confucius
- "Fortune favors the bold." —Virgil
- "No man is an island, entire of itself." —John Donne
- "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers." —James Thurber
- "Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much." —Blaise Pascal
- "What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful." —Sappho
- "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can." —John Wesley
- "Just follow the day and reach for the sun." —The Polyphonic Spree
- "Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world." —Auggie Pullman
Choose one of the precepts and write a paragraph to explain what it means and why should we live by it.
What is it?
Characterisation is the way in which authors convey information about their characters. Characterisation can be direct, as when an author tells readers what a character is like (e.g. "George was cunning and greedy.") or indirect, as when an author shows what a character is like by portraying his or her actions, speech, or thoughts (eg. "On the crowded subway, George slipped his hand into the man's coat pocket and withdrew the wallet, undetected."). Descriptions of a character's appearance, behavior, interests, way of speaking, and other mannerisms are all part of characterisation. For stories written in the first-person point of view, the narrator's voice, or way of telling the story, is essential to his or her characterisation.
Why is it important?
Characterisation is a crucial part of making a story compelling. In order to interest and move readers, characters need to seem real. Authors achieve this by providing details that make characters individual and particular. Good characterisation gives readers a strong sense of characters' personalities and complexities; it makes characters vivid, alive and believable.
How is it created
Tell the reader directly what a character's personality is like:
"Mrs. Freeman could never be brought to admit herself wrong on any point."
—Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People"
Describe a character's appearance and manner:
"The Baker, who was an older man with a thick neck, listened without saying anything when she told him the child would be eight years old next Monday. The baker wore a white apron that looked like a smock. Straps cut under his arms, went around in back and then to the front again, where they were secured under his heavy waist. He wiped his hands on his apron as he listened to her. He kept his eyes down on the photographs and let her talk."
—Raymond Carver, "A Small, Good Thing"
Portray a character's thoughts and motivations:
"I didn't come to Utah to be the same boy I'd been before. I had my own dreams of transformation, Western dreams, dreams of freedom and dominion and taciturn self-sufficiency. The first thing I wanted to do was change my name. A girl named Toby had joined my class before I left Florida, and this had caused both of us scalding humiliation.
"I wanted to call myself Jack, after Jack London. I believed that having his name would charge me with some of the strength and competence inherent in my idea of him. The odds were good that I'd never have to share a classroom with a girl named Jack. And I liked the sound. Jack. Jack Wolff."
—Tobias Wolff, This Boy's Life
Use dialogue to allow a character's words to reveal something important about his or her nature:
"Unable to contain herself, [Mrs. Bennet] began scolding one of her daughters. 'Don't keep coughing so, Kitty, for heaven's sake! Have a little compassion on my nerves. You tear them to pieces.'"
—Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice
Use a character's actions to reveal his or her personality:
"He would hang around our place on Saturdays, scornful of whatever I was doing but unable to leave me alone. I couldn't be on the swing without him wanting to try it, and if I wouldn't give it up he came and pushed me so that I went crooked. He teased the dog. He got me into trouble—deliberately and maliciously, it seemed to me afterward—by daring me to do things I wouldn't have thought of on my own: digging up the potatoes to see how big they were when they were still only the size of marbles, and pushing over the stacked firewood to make a pile we could jump off."
—Alice Munro, "Miles City, Montana"
Show others' reactions to the character or person you're portraying:
"No respect at all was shown him in the department. The porters, far from getting up from their seats when he came in, took no more notice of him than if a simple fly had flown across the reception room."
—Nikolai Gogol, "The Overcoat"
Give fictional characters meaningful names or use real people's nicknames that relate to their personalities:
Severus Snape—"Severus" means "strict" or "severe" in Latin. Severus Snape is a strict professor who treats Harry harshly.
Sirius Black—"Sirius" is the brightest star in the Canis Major or "Great Dog" constellation. Sirius Black is a wizard who transforms into a black dog.
Peeves—"To peeve" means "to annoy." Peeves is a ghost who pesters people at Hogwart's School.
—J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Use this example from Team of Rivals to find out about the character of Lincoln. Read the extract and then fill in the table below in complete sentences.
"Lincoln's shock of black hair, brown furrowed face, and deep-set eyes made him look older than his fifty-one years. He was a familiar figure to almost everyone in Springfield, as was his singular way of walking, which gave the impression that his long, gaunt frame needed oiling. He plodded forward in an awkward manner, hands hanging at his sides or folded behind his back. His step had no spring...
"His features, even supporters conceded, were not such 'as belong to a handsome man.' In repose, his face was '[overspread] with sadness,' the reporter Horace White noted... Yet when Lincoln began to speak, White observed, 'this expression of sorrow dropped from him instantly. His face lighted up with a winning smile, and where I had a moment before seen only leaden sorrow I now beheld keen intelligence, genuine kindness of heart, and the promise of true friendship.'"
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals
What does the character look like?
How does the character behave towards others? How do others behave toward the character?
What does the character seem to care about?
What adjectives does the author use to describe the character's personality?
What does the character think or say?
What are they?
A blurb is a short summary that accompanies a text. It gives a reader/responder a quick insight into what the text will be about without spoiling the actual plot, chain of events or content. While we most often associate blurbs with novels, they also appear on DVD cases, web pages, TV guides and CD cases.
What is its purpose?
The purpose of a blurb is to quickly engage a reader/responder and provide them with just enough information to persuade them to read, watch or listen to the text. With novels or films, blurbs are used in conjunction with cover art to portray the text in the best light possible.
What’s in a blurb?
A blurb will generally offer reader/responders a brief summary of a text’s main points without revealing the most important or interesting aspects. They aim to provide just enough information to draw individuals in. Blurbs will often use techniques such as rhetorical questions and emotive language to establish a quick connection with the reader/responder. When it comes to novels or films, blurbs may contain a combination of quotes from the text, the author, the publisher and reviewers in order to reinforce the idea that the text MUST be read.
Describe how the next three blurbs are written and designed and explain how you think they portray the story and relate to the audience.