White Bird: A Wonder Story

Knopf. Oct. 2019. 224p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780525645535.
Gr 4-6–This graphic novel expands on Grandmère’s childhood story, which was referenced in The Julian Chapter, a companion to Palacio’s Wonder. Grandmère tells Julian about her childhood in France. She describes how her comfortable, happy life changed in the summer of 1940, when the Germans occupied part of France. Though Grandmère, or Sara, and her family lived in the free zone, she tells Julian, “Nothing was really normal anymore. Not if you were Jewish, like us.” As the war progresses, it becomes more real to Sara, but she doesn’t understand the danger until the day that the Nazi soldiers arrive at Sara’s school to take the Jewish children. Sara hides to escape capture but doesn’t know what to do next until she is rescued by a classmate who leads her to safety. The boy, Julien, though she knows him by the cruel nickname Torteau (French for “crab”), uses crutches to walk because his legs were affected by polio. The two become friends, and their relationship even turns romantic as the years pass while Sara is in hiding, but Julien’s character doesn’t become more than a tragic hero. Moments set in the present featuring Julian and Grandmère frame the tale and draw parallels to family separation at the U.S. border, offering a powerful conclusion. An author’s note discusses Palacio’s connection to the story, and back matter provides further information about the war, the period, and more.
VERDICT Sure to be popular among fans of Wonder and educators who want to connect past to present.

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