April 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Palacio’s ‘Wonder’ Launches Companion Anti-Bullying Campaign

Those of you who were moved by R.J. Palacio’s debut novel, Wonder (Knopf, 2012), will be pleased to know that her publisher has launched a campaign called Choose Kind to encourage kids, educators, and readers of all ages to join the fight against bullying.

Inspired by the book, about a fifth grader named Auggie who has a facial deformity and attends a mainstream school for the first time, the website offers a place where readers can share their experiences—either as victim, bully, or bystander—and pledge to combat the nationwide rise in bullying with every day acts of kindness.

“Celebrating those who have made the choice to be kind—not always an easy thing to do when you’re a kid!—is the best way to raise awareness to this very simple fact: kindness is a virtue whose ripple effects can literally change the world,” says Palacio (pictured below), whose debut novel is now a New York Times bestseller. “One child at a time, one person at a time, there’s no greater antidote to bullying than the steadfast refusal of children, teachers, and parents to accept a culture where bullying is tolerated.”

Choose Kind was designed for fans and supporters of the novel who’ve asked for additional resources to use when sharing the book and its message with families, schools, and communities across the country. Each section of the site offers an interactive user experience, where people can share a post, ranging from personal experiences of being bullied to moments where they wished they had stood up for someone else. Librarians can download lesson plans and a digital toolkit that offers printable stickers and web badges, as well as links to other anti-bullying efforts like the National Bullying Prevention Center, the It Gets Better project, and the National Education Association’s Bully Free: It Starts with Me. They can also sign an online pledge to Choose Kind as a way to end bullying and print a certificate to display in the classroom. Also available are a video trailer of Wonder, many reviews, and links to the novel’s social media channels. Random House UK, which published the book in March, and publishes Wonder for adult readers on June 6th, 2012, has joined the effort as well.

Wonder has inspired us, and captured our hearts entirely,” says Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books. “The outpouring of enthusiasm from book lovers and educators moved us to share the poignant message of this novel with a wider audience. I am proud to give them-and anyone around the world-the opportunity to discover the story and to pledge with us to Choose Kind.”

SLJ‘s starred review of Wonder describes it as a well-written, thought-provoking, fast read that would be a great “discussion starter about love, support, and judging people on their appearance.” And the book has done just that in the few short months since its February release.

News of the novel spread quickly by word-of-mouth through its Twitter hashtag, #thewonderofwonder and its Facebook page, and the buzz grew as it became the topic of blog posts from parents, teachers, and librarians praising its universal message of empathy and kindness. There’s even talk about it being a frontrunner for the 2013 Newbery Medal.

“Put this [book] in every school library everywhere, please! Every library anywhere, really,” wrote Nicole Johnston on Betsy Bird’s SLJ blog, which ranked Wonder #65 of the top 100 Children’s Novels. “What I think it does best is create a magnifying glass that shows us how we react to differences through the frank and honest perspective of various kids’ voices.”

The Associated Press interviewed Clara Beatty, a nine-year-old girl with Treacher-Collins Syndrome, for a story and she already was reading Wonder. Her parents Janet and Eric said they were impressed with Palacio’s ability to realistically portray Auggie’s experience, noting “As a family with a child of facial difference, Wonder gives an amazingly accurate view of our world from a number of perspectives. We are hopeful that this story raises awareness of how being kind can be powerful.”

Be sure to check out our interview with Palacio, who is one of our guest speakers at SLJ‘s Day of Dialog on Monday, June 4 at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, where she’ll talk about the book and its new campaign as part of our “Stellar Debuts” panel discussion focusing on new and noteworthy arrivals to the publishing scene.

About Debra Lau Whelan

Debra Whelan is a former senior editor for news and features at SLJ.

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