‘Wonder’ Author on How Book About Boy With Craniofacial Difference Sparked ‘Movement of Kindness’
by L M Klett
When author R.J. Palacio penned Wonder, a book about a little boy with a craniofacial difference, back in 2012, she had no idea it would spark a worldwide movement of kindness.
“I never could have predicted the kind of reaction the book received,” Palacio told The Christian Post in an exclusive interview. “Shortly after the publication of the book, teachers and librarians and parents started talking about standing up to bullies and using kindness as an aspirational way to motivate kids to want to be nicer to one another.”
…Wonder follows Auggie Pullman, a little boy born with facial features that set him apart from his peers, who enters fifth grade, attending elementary school for the first time. The book 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.
…In the U.S., approximately 600,000 individuals have been diagnosed with a craniofacial condition, ranging from a cleft palate to a myriad of syndrome disorders.
Palacio said that over the years, she’s received thousands of emails and letters from children who have facial differences, and parents of those kids describing how the book has impacted them. The stories that move her the most, she said, are those from the “real-life Auggie Pullmans.”
“I had one dad tell me that before Wonder came out, just taking his son who had a very severe craniofacial difference to the playground was a big deal,” she recalled. “They had to mentally prepare themselves every single time. One day, when his son went to the playground, kids came up to him and said, ‘Hey! Are you like Auggie Pullman?’ Now, it’s completely different. It totally changed his son’s personality. Those are the kind of stories that are extremely inspiring to me.”
…Palacio, who has two sons of her own, hopes Wonder both inspires children to be kinder to one another and encourages parents to examine their own thoughts and attitudes toward those with differences.
…”Ultimately, Wonder is a meditation on kindness,” she continued. “It’s a story about the impact it can have on our fellow human beings, it’s about compassion and tolerance and acceptance. I think I’m trying to inspire empathy and that through storytelling, that’s the best way to do that.”