A few weeks ago I came across Wonder and bought a copy for my husband to read to us. We often have a book each that we read to our children. I especially love when he reads though, as it means I can sew whilst listening. In the years since my own mother read to me and my sister, as I hung upside down for hours over the arm of the sofa with my head pressed against the floor, I'd forgotten quite what a treat it is to be read aloud to, but now it's a part of my life that I think I'll miss dreadfully if it wanes as my children grow up.
The reviews of this book are sensational, but not in a way where there's so much hype that it put me off reading it (such a thing made me foolishly avoid Harry Potter for nearly a decade before discovering that I did enjoy it after all). I felt almost sure that we'd love it. And we did. It's one of those books that's half-children's book, half adults' book: the wisdom and warmth it has to offer spans generations and are appreciated and thought over on different levels.
It's about a little boy called August with an horrific facial disfigurement and is narrated in short chapters by him and the people around him: those who adore him and look on with apprehension and wonder as he joins a mainstream school for the first time aged 10; and those who fear him and his unusual face and worry that his looks may somehow infect them merely by brushing their hand against his. It is a book that shatters preconceptions in the same way that Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timedid several years earlier, but it's a more joyful, heartwarming book than that. As my husband read aloud, all four of us found that we frequently had tears rolling down our cheeks, but it was invariably uplifting and inspiring in greater measures than it was saddening, with a cast of characters who were endearingly human and (mostly) hugely likable.
Our children are eight and ten and it's a book that at times is narrated by teenage characters, meaning that very occasionally the subject matter or language needed to be edited by my husband as he read, but in most ways, I can't think of a more suitable or appropriate book to read to children. It teaches the value of kindness more succinctly, unpreachingly and generously than any other book I've come across and the words of August's wonderful headmaster, who draws on the quote that 'one should always be kinder than is necessary', have rumbled around my head ever since my husband finished reading the last line of the book. Yes, it's a book about disfigurement, but in many ways, it's primarily an exploration of human nature and, largely, the good in human nature.
Whether you have children or not, I implore you to read this lovely book: it is a simple novel, full of complex, wonderful characters. You may want to sew up a tissue holder beforehand though.
Ps. I no longer hang upside down when I'm read to as it would make sewing too problematic.
I'm so glad this book is being read. I have recommended it to friends many times over as I thought it perfect for any age groupReplyDelete
I'm so pleased you loved it too - it definitely is one of those books that makes you want to buy a copy for everyone you know, isn't it.Delete
We both love reading to the children and being read to as well Florence. Such special times and we also have the older children frequently chatting about these times from when they were little too which proves what magical memories such a simple act can make.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the recommendation. Will pop it on the list xx
That's so nice to find that they're remembered, isn't it.Delete
Sounds wonderful, I must get it for my girls.ReplyDelete
Oh do - I hope they love it.Delete
Have already bought a copy for Mark, but he is yet to read it, so perhaps we can do it as a family read aloud (a holiday tradition for us).ReplyDelete
Oh that's nice - holidays are good for that when there's no householdy distractions.Delete
Thankyou for this lovely review. wrapped around your memories of the past, now hopes for the future. I am going to get a copy.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Lydia. I really hope you enjoy it. xDelete
I must get this...I imagine my children would love it too.ReplyDelete
My daughter reads aloud in the car on journeys...I love it, she reads beautifully...and doesn't get car sick! (unlike me, I can't even read a text!)
Oh the lucky thing (and you too, to have such a lovely reader in the car). I too get horribly carsick. I'm the only person I know who has actually become carsick while driving the actual car!Delete
Thanks for the recommendation! I'm always happy to find new books!ReplyDelete
Me too - I go through phases of suddenly wanting to discover new ones and other times where months will pass and I'll be happy with what's already on the shelves.Delete
I will read it, thanks for the recommendation..ReplyDelete
I hope you enjoy it! xDelete
You've made me curious. I'll certainly have to look into this one.ReplyDelete
Have a look at the reviews on Amazon as they give a better insight into what it's about.Delete
I have been wondering about buying this, and now I will for certain. I love to be read to as well, but my children now want to read to themselves, reading aloud is so slow apparently, makes me sad. xReplyDelete
Oh no. Mine often love to do some drawing while we read...perhaps multi-tasking would make it feel less slow for them? xDelete
Thank you for such a thoughtful review Florence. I'd love to read this book, but I'm such an incredible softy, I'll probably be bawling for a week! My younger son is autistic and my older son recently read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, which was a very positive experience. I'm sure we'd both get a lot out of Wonder, I just need to brace myself! xReplyDelete
I think you'd love it, Jane. It's a little more uplifting than Dog in the Nighttime (although I loved that too) and I guess may be less emotionally draining for you. But yes, better read when you're feeling fortified! xDelete
I'm AWFUL at reading books that make me cry, I normally just give up on them, I can't cope with the emotional roller coaster! Maybe in a few years I'll brave this one though. Pretty Liberty print too :)ReplyDelete
Thank you! I have to admit that I didn't sew quite as much as I'd hoped while reading this so the Liberty prints haven't progressed much further than they were when pictured!Delete
I've got the opposite problem; I used to absolutely love reading aloud to my daughter. It was the start of her love of literature and something that we share and has brought great pleasure to us both. The days of reading stories aloud are long gone sadly but I never miss an opportunity for reading bits of the current book I'm reading, newspaper articles or things on the computer like blogs (I shall probably read this out for instance). I apparently do love the sound of my own voice - it's not appreciated as it once was though! Being read to was also something I enjoyed as a child, even books chosen at school by the teacher which I wouldn't have chosen like the hobbit were much loved. The Silver Sword was another book I first had read to me. I re-read it as an adult and still loved it. No one is reading aloud to me these days. Just the odd audio book now.ReplyDelete
It's lovely to read of you taking the time but also choosing to read something that can make such a difference in attitudes. If only all parents encouraged empathy, understanding and kindness to others, wouldn't the world be a nicer place?
That's kind - thank you.Delete
I totally agree - being read to is, I think, one of the most indulgent things, whether by a teacher, parent or audio book. It's nice that you like the sound of your own voice! I've never thought of reading something aloud to myself!
I love the idea of being kinder than is necessary. What a wonderful maxim for living. I too missed reading to my children as they grew up (although as my youngest was dyslexic we kept his love of stories alive by reading to him until he was nearly a teenager). But I have just begun again with my grand daughter - so never fear the joy returnsReplyDelete
That's such a lovely thought that we'll be able to enjoy this all over again with grandchildren! What are you enjoying reading with them at the moment?Delete
My youngest is dyslexic too and reading aloud is lovely as his comprehension far surpasses his reading ability, so this way it means his enjoyment of more complex books isn't kept out of reach.
You're right - it's a marvellous maxim and one that I'm trying to keep in my head.
Florence, I have been reading your blog for many years now and just have to tell you what an inspiration you are! So many of the lovely recommendations you take the time to post about have made their way into my own family's lives. I have just ordered a copy of wonder, and can't wait to share it with my own children!ReplyDelete
Thanks once again Florence your blog is truly something very special.
Dear N, what an absolutely lovely comment to receive this evening - thank you so much for taking the time to let me know that you enjoy my blog. I love the idea that some of my recommendations have made their way into your home and that you've hopefully enjoyed them as much as we have. I really hope you love this too. I'd love to hear what you think of it.Delete
I used to like being read to as a child too, and funnily enough I got the audio books from the library for the Harry Potter books, and it was lovely having Stephen Fry read them to me (and the kids).ReplyDelete
I had to laugh at the thought of you hanging upside down listening to your mother read to you!
After reading what Anonymous^ said about reading out loud, I read the rest of the comments out loud, but can now say that I don't like the sound of my own voice.
No need to stop reading aloud just because there are no children to listen - I read A Room With A View to my boyfriend a few years ago (complete with different voices for all the characters!) and it was great fun. He'd never have read it himself, but he really enjoyed it. And when he mentioned to one of his friends that I was reading to him, said friend was very impressed/jealous :-) I think my sister and her boyfriend read to each other as well.ReplyDelete