314p. Knopf. Feb. 2012. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-375-86902-0; PLB $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-96902-7; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-89988-1. LC number unavailable.
RedReviewStarGr 4–7—Due to a rare genetic disorder, Auggie Pullman's head is malformed, his facial features are misshapen, and he has scars from corrective surgery. After much discussion and waffling, he and his parents decide it's time for him to go to a regular school for the fifth grade instead of being homeschooled. All his life Auggie has seen the shocked expressions and heard the whispers his appearance generates, and he has his coping strategies. He knows that except for how he looks, he's a normal kid. What he experiences is typical middle school—the good and the bad. Meanwhile, his beautiful sister is starting high school and having her own problems. She's finding that friendships change and, though it makes her feel guilty, she likes not being labeled as Auggie's sister. Multiple people tell this story, including Auggie, two of his new school friends, his sister, and his sister's former best friend. 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.—Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC
Born with a severe facial deformity, formerly homeschooled Auggie is starting fifth grade. We learn how desperately he wants friends but little of what he might offer in return, as he seems to be defined by his disability. Still, this novel is a heartbreaker, and one that for many readers may provide a new definition of bravery in the face of adversity.
"The universe was not kind to Auggie Pullman." Auggie was born with a facial anomaly: his face sags; his eyes are asymmetrical, below the expected placement, and bulging; his oversized nose protrudes; and he lacks ears, eyebrows, eyelashes, and cheekbones. Having been homeschooled all his life, this fifth-grader is now entering school for the first time -- going, as his dad says, "like a lamb to the slaughter." Auggie is used to people looking away, or even recoiling, when they see him, and he's well aware of some of the names he's called: "Rat boy. Freak. Monster. Freddy Krueger. E.T. Gross-out. Lizard face. Mutant." First novelist Palacio shows readers Auggie's feelings and, in various chapters from multiple narrators (his sister and various classmates, for example), how others react to him. But there's also a lot of telling; as in, we're told Auggie is a lot of fun. What we're shown is that he makes a host of self-depreciating remarks, but these comments don't a fun guy make, and they render his characterization fairly one-dimensional. As Auggie seeks friends, we are told how desperately he wants them but little, beyond being the object of kindness, of what he might offer in return. Still, this novel is a heartbreaker, and one that for many readers may redefine bravery in the face of adversity. betty carter

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