It can be hard to get a kid interested in a book in 2017. What with the allure of YouTube and Netflix…..books are a much harder sell than they used to be. Which is why I’m always so thrilled when I notice any of my kids so absorbed in a book that they carry it around the house with them and beg to be allowed to keep reading during meals. In an age of screens, games and streaming, a story has to be pretty compelling to hold their attention.
Wonder is that story. My daughter has been obsessed with this book for the past couple of years – it came out in 2012 and she’s read it repeatedly since I bought it for her in 2015 – and so when we heard it was being made into a movie, it was like Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny all came at once, in a Tesla driven by Taylor Swift.
She was that excited.
Wonder isn't just a story or a book or a movie. Wonder is a message. A message about kindness which has never been a more welcome or more needed in our world - and the world of our kids - than it is right now.
I love a story withe a Life Lesson, a Universal Positive Message. When my child is absorbed in this kind of story, I feel the same way I do when they're eating a green vegetable. Like I can almost see the goodness going into them, being absorbed into their cells. Making them stronger and wiser and smarter and...a better, more compassionate person.
Wonder is the story of August "Auggie" Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay in the movie), a little boy who is born with a facial difference. Auggie has been in and out of hospital his whole life. His parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson on screen) try to help him fit in when he starts at a new school called Beecher Prep because Auggie wants to show everyone he's just a regular kid. The story tells of how he strives to fit in and teach other people that beauty is not just about how you look.
Oooph my heart. Here's the trailer for the film:
This is a story you want your child to know. This is a life lesson you want your child to learn.
Here's how my daughter described Wonder when I asked her why the story resonated with her so strongly:
"I love Wonder. It’s my favourite book for so many different reasons. This book shows people that Auggie is no different from anyone else and that what's on the outside doesn't matter nearly as much as what kind of person you are. The story shows you that there is no such thing as 'normal'. Auggie isn’t his disability. It doesn’t define him, and the author, R.J Palacio, has portrayed this idea so beautifully in the novel.
What I really love about Wonder are the people in Auggie’s life. Summer, one of his first friends, is someone I think we should all learn from. She wasn’t told by anyone to befriend August, she simply sat down beside him. Also Jack Will, another of Auggie’s friends. He makes mistakes at first, and he isn’t so keen on being friends with the new boy. But he learns a lot by spending time with Auggie and in the end, kindness wins.
I was thrilled when I heard Wonder was going to become a film, thrilled that the characters I had pictured inside my head would be coming to life. I can’t wait to see August and his friends on the big screen. I hope that everyone goes to watch it. I will, probably multiple times!
Wonder is an incredible book that I would recommend to anyone over the age of nine. Everyone can take at least one thing away from this amazing story."
After 20 years of parenting, I've discovered the power of narrative and pop culture when teaching your child about the world and about the values you want them to inherit. It's enormously helpful to have stories and characters to refer to when you're discussing big concepts like kindness and disability and tolerance and friendship. Because trust me, the last thing they want to hear are your stories, your experiences, your anecdotes. I've learned this through two decades of trial and error and the evidence is conclusive: third party stories are always more impactful and less likely to induce an eye roll than starting a sentence with: "You know, when I was your age....."
It's why I'm always looking for age-appropriate books and TV shows, documentaries and films that I can experience with my kids that slip some valuable life lessons into a compelling story. Wonder is that story. The message of kindness and the #ChooseKind campaign that has sprung out of it (the hashtag will give it even more cred in your kids' eyes....unlike our own stories, which almost certainly don't include a hashtag of any sort) is one that we all need to embrace right now.
I can't wait to see the film with my daughter and my son. And to talk about it as much as we've talked about the book for the past two years.
Choose Kind. Choose Wonder.
Mamamia has taken the pledge to #ChooseKind, and have also accepted the Choose Kind Challenge, which involves filling up a jar with tokens that represent acts of kindness.
If you want to find out how your family, friends, school or business can get involved, visit choosekind.org.au to sign the pledge and find out more on how you can also take your kindness to the next level by taking the #ChooseKind Challenge.
Wonder is in cinemas November 30.
Has Wonder made an impact on you or your child? Leave a comment below, we'd love to hear from you.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Wonder.