WONDER by R. J. Palacio is a book that came out in 2012, and hasn’t stopped flying off the shelves since. It tells the tale of a boy who is born with a facial deformity that prevents him from attending regular school for most of his life. It’s a wonderful book that demonstrates the strength of the human spirit, and addresses such themes as bullying, empathy, and acceptance. (And yes, it’s going to be a movie!)
But this spring, Palacio released a picture book version called, WE’RE ALL WONDERS, and it aims the idea of differences at a new crowd—2-5 year olds.
I read this during storytime recently, and was surprised at the reactions. While this cover has a similar looking boy…with one eye….he also wears a space helmet. When I asked the children to tell me something about the boy on the cover, they mentioned everything but the eye. He has on a space helmet! He’s wearing a red shirt! He lives in a city! Honestly, I had to point out the main idea here…and yet, these young listeners were hardly phased by it. One eye? Meh. So what? He has on a space helmet!
It’s interesting to talk with young readers about books, especially books that have a certain goal. Are children really blind to differences? If the cover of this book is any indication, yes. In real life, it’s often quite different, but the more we can expose children to ideas like this early on, the less likely they’ll be to antagonize a “different” child in real life.
We need more of these, for sure. What issues would you like to see in picture books?