Great Illustrated Books


By R.J. Palacio

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012
Pages : 320
Suggested Ages: 8-12
ISBN: 9780375869020

It would be hard to overstate how special this book is – it is much more than just an exquisitely written story. This is a rare book that might – open a closed heart; it could make the world a better place. I don’t think I have ever written a sentence like that about another book. 

August Pullman, now 10, was born with a deformed face. He lives in Manhattan, where’s it’s hard to hide, so even though he’s been homeschooled, he’s felt the stares, heard the whispers, and walked away when the boldest jerks called him Freak or Freddy Krueger. Since birth, he’s had 27 surgeries, but his face still looks like it has “been melted, like the drippings on a candle.” 

Now his parents have decided (not without reservations) that it’s time for Auggie to meet the wider world, enrolling him in a private school for fifth grade. His father worries that sending his gentle son to school is like leading a lamb to slaughter. 

Auggie may have lost the genetic lottery, but one thing he has going for him is the adults in his life. His parents’ unconditional love is a thing to behold. Additionally, Auggie’s principal, the unfortunately-named Mr. Tushman, has Auggie’s back, and his English teacher, Mr. Browne, wisely begins the school year with this guiding precept: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” Words to live by. 

Kids, however, are kids. Though Auggie mostly succeeds at Beecher Prep, there are a few bad apples. In short chapters, Palacio skillfully sketches the ups and downs of his year, told not only from Auggie’s perspective, but from the viewpoint of others who intersect his life: his sister, Via, two school friends, Summer and Jack, even Via’s new boyfriend, Justin, who, in truth, has very little involvement in Auggie’s life.  By including the voice of someone as peripheral as Justin, Palacio shows how the way a boy like Auggie is treated ripples through a community.  Auggie’s increasing presence in the world doesn’t only test his courage; it also takes the measure of everyone he comes in contact with.  Palacio’s chief triumph, however, is Auggie himself, a sweet, sharp kid who wants, more than anything, to be unremarkable. What Auggie wouldn’t give to enter a room and attract absolutely zero attention.   

Everyone learns something as the school year progresses, especially Auggie’s classmates who, initially reluctant to even meet his eyes, learn the folly of judging a book by its cover. One of Via’s friends believes there should be a rule that everyone in the world gets a standing ovation   once in their lives. I’m not venturing out on a limb at all to say that Palacio is going to get more than one as this amazing first novel finds its way into the hearts and minds of readers.  

Reviewed by : SC


If you love this book, then try:

Spinelli, Jerry. Loser. HarperCollins, 2002.

Magoon, Kekla. Camo Girl. Aladdin, 2011.

Critics have said

"A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder."
Kirkus Reviews

"Palacio has an exceptional knack for writing realistic conversation and describing the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Everyone grows and develops as the story progresses, especially the middle school students. This is a fast read and would be a great discussion starter about love, support, and judging people on their appearance. A well-written, thought-provoking book."
School Library Journal

"In a wonder of a debut, Palacio has written a crackling page-turning filled with characters you can't help but root for."
Entertainment Weekly