Thursday, September 27, 2012

WONDERful day

I was very honored today to meet a real life author, R. J. Palacio. Palacio is the first time author of the New York Times bestselling book Wonder. Palacio, who lives in New York City, was invited to speak to students at the Shorecrest Preparatory School, here in St. Petersburg.

My fifth grade daughter and her class at St. Raphael Catholic School were able to attend the Shorecrest assembly. Their teacher had read the book aloud to the entire class. Additionally, following the school assembly a lucky few of us moms got to have lunch with Palacio and hear more about the writing of Wonder.

So how did this all come about?

R. J. Palacio on the right in glasses with bookclub
Last spring a group of women in a St. Petersburg book club read the book Wonder. The book club found the book to be very special. Lori, one of the book club members, really wanted to meet the author and have her speak to the book club, but Palacio declined as she only will travel to speak to schools.

Over the summer, Lori told me about the book and how powerful it is. I read it aloud to our four youngest children ages, 14, 12, 10 and 7. Even my husband listened in on a lot of it. We were all captivated by the story of Auggie Pullman. It is one of the those books you just cruise through because you can't wait to read what happens next.

Lori and RJ Palacio
Although Lori was resigned that she wouldn't meet Palacio, her friends were a little more courageous. The book club friends collaborated to arrange for Palacio to speak to the students at Shorecrest and then meet with the book club women for lunch. It was a dream come true, not only for Lori, but for all of us.

Meeting Palacio was a delight. She is such a "real" person, a forty-something wife and mom of two sons. She works full time as a graphic artist at a book publisher. She shared that as a young girl she always wanted to read, write and draw and hoped someday to actually make a living doing these three things she loved. To write Wonder, she would wake up at midnight and write until 3 am because it was the only time that it was quiet and she could write uninterrupted. She did this over a year and a half!

One of the main themes in the book is  to choose to be kind. That motto is catching fire and kids (and adults) can now take the "pledge to choose kind." (see below)

I can't recommend this book enough. It is a powerful read whether you are the intended reader (in middle school) or a teen on up to adults. Here is the description from the book's cover:
"I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a New York Times bestseller, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. 

In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

I am so grateful to the kindness of Palacio for coming to speak. I am so grateful for Lori's dream to meet her and the kindness of her courageous friends who made it all happen. I left the luncheon with the most WONDERful feeling. Kindness really does make all the difference.

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