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One Book Bank Street

August 3, 2012

One Book, One Community – One Book, One School

I have always been skeptical of these programs, wondering “Can one book really fit all?” But then, along comes one that does — Wonder by R.J. Palacio (see previous post for photos of R.J. visiting the School for Children).

Wonder is the first book that I have read in years that deserves to be a One Book, One School read, so Bank Street will be using it for our very first One Book Bank Street program this fall. We are urging students, teachers, faculty, parents, and alumni to read this moving book about a 5th grade class who must examine how they treat Auggie, a bright, boy with a frightening facial deformity who is going to school for the first time.

It is an un-put-down-able, gender-neutral story that gives an authentic voice to the relationships between sibling, friends, and parents. I can’t think of a book to compare it to and, given the number of books I’ve read during my career, that’s saying a lot right there.

Choosing a new hardcover seems like an expensive proposition for such a program, but this is a book that will stand the test of time. Our school will begin reading it aloud to the 8/9s and 9/10s in September. I am buying classroom sets for ages 10/11s and 11/12s to read in September/October. The sets will then be passed up to 12/13s and 13/14s  in November. The program will conclude with a book discussion with the author. We will be blogging about the successes and pitfalls of the program and the reading/literacy/social curriculum that arises from the experience.

The publisher is supporting the book with various materials, including a reader’s guide, and terrific choose kindness campaign.

Word of mouth is spreading like wildfire. The book has been on the NYT Children’s Hardcover list since mid-March. For a taste of the kind of excitement kids are expressing for Wonder, below is a review from Bank Street Children’s Book Committee young reviewer, Foster, who is 12-years-old. We hope everyone enjoys this book as much as we do!

-Lisa Von Drasek

“I loved Wonder. It is a wonderful novel about kindness and not judging people by their looks. The reader forms an incredibly strong bond with the main character, August Pullman. August is not an ordinary ten-year old. As he says, “ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds.” August was born without a jaw, with eyes too far down his face and missing external ears. Sheltered his entire life by his parents, he did not attend public school to avoid the shock and disgust on other children’s faces. However, his parents force him to enter fifth grade because they cannot home-school him well enough for him to take advantage of his superior intellectual capabilities.

The plot so captivates the reader that Wonder must be read in one sitting. Wonder is inspiring because it shows that regardless of a person’s looks, a person should be treated the same as everyone else.

Wonder explains life through the eyes of a person whom society casts as an outsider and the book reveals that, even today, looks are given far too much importance. Also, Wonder describes how people interact with people with disabilities and how they overcome their prejudices.”

-Foster, 12 years old

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