Oct 29, 2020

Auggie and Me

three wonder stories 
by R.J. Palacio

     I'm in the middle of re-reading another western similar in feel to Sam Chance when this book came up on hold for me at the library. It felt odd to jump into a different genre, with a different style aimed at a younger age group- but I went with it since I want to read and return fairly quickly. As you can guess from the cover, this book has three short stories from the viewpoint of side characters from Wonder (originally they were short stories individually available as e-books). It's a companion book, as the events overlap same timeframe as Wonder.

The Julian Chapter is about one of the kids who bullied Auggie. Though of course he doesn't see it that way at all. He found Auggie's appearance very disturbing- in fact it triggered old nightmares and brought up issues of anxiety he thought he had already worked past. Rather understandably, though not at all kind, he reacted to his fear and distaste by lashing out at Auggie, in an underhand way. I found it even more insightful that the story showed (if you read between the lines, which isn't hard to do) how Julian's parents- especially his mother's attitude- had something to do with his behavior and way of interacting with peers as well. I'm glad that at the end the father stood up to the mom and kind of put a stop to the direction things were going. I also really liked the story the grandmother shared with Julian about her past, hiding from Nazis and how her dislike of a local boy with legs disabled from polio turned to appreciation when he helped her.

Pluto is the story of a childhood friend. They lived in the same neighborhood and Auggie had arranged playdates with him since they were very little. When they got a little older, some of the moms in the group stopped being part of it and other kids drifted away but Chris remained friends. He and Auggie obsess about outer space stuff together. This is the shortest of the stories and has two main threads- Chris trying to navigate an after-school band (organized by a teacher) where he wants to be accepted by the older kids who play well, but not offend his friend, who isn't that great with the instrument. There's also the issues he has with taking personal responsibility, getting a handle on his forgetfulness, and how when his mother gets into a car accident, he thinks it's his fault. Some pretty heavy stuff for only 76 pages. 

Shingaling- I didn't quite connect with this one as well, probably because it has so much focus on the ins and outs of girl friendships- who likes whom and who is speaking to who again (or not) and who sits where at lunch and why- for me it was hard to keep track of! Well, this is Charlotte's story. She's one of those who is kind to Auggie and avoids teasing him, but won't take a bigger step like actually sit with him because she's afraid of what other kids will say. A lot of it is about the dance class she's in, and a performance they prepare for at Carnegie Hall. Competition between the girls and how she gets to know one of them- that she would never have dared to approach otherwise- because they both win a place to dance in this performance. There's also a thread about a man she used to see playing an accordion on a street corner- and when one day he isn't there she wants to know why and find him again. She's worried that maybe he is homeless and something happened. The conclusion of that little mystery was nice. It winds up with another speech (given at fifth-grade graduation- sorry but I still don't get graduation ceremonies from things like kindergarten and grade school) I kind of skimmed that last page but still I liked this one too.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5               304 pages, 2015

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