Auggie & Me by R.J. Palacio

51ypc4llh4lI read Wonder a couple of years ago, and absolutely loved it. This middle grade book shows up on the summer reading list every year, and has become a modern children’s classic. Wonder tells the story of Auggie, a young boy with a craniofacial abnormality. He has been homeschooled for his entire life because of his numerous surgeries and procedures, but he wants to attend a regular school. He starts fifth grade at a small private school in Manhattan, and Wonder is the story of what happens during that fifth grade year. It’s told from multiple perspectives: Auggie, his older sister, his classmate Summer, etc.

Author R.J. Palacio has assembled a collection of three “Wonder Stories”. They were originally released on the Kindle as “Kindle Singles” which could be purchased separately, but last fall, they were released together in one hardcover book as Auggie & Me.

I would recommend reading Wonder before reading Auggie & Me. The characters reference events that happened in Wonder, and a reader will not fully understand what is going on. The stories contained in Auggie & Me actually take place during Wonder, so it’s very interesting to see some of the same events from a different perspective.

The first story is The Julian Chapter. Julian was the villain of the piece, and devoted his time to making Auggie and his friends miserable. Julian engaged in a series of microaggressions, and tried to turn his classmates against Auggie. I was not sure what he would have to say, and I was not surprised that his behavior was justified and reinforced by his self-absorbed parents. I suppose that I almost felt sorry for Julian; there was very little accountability for his actions. I was pleasantly surprised by the end of Julian’s chapter: he spends the summer in France with his Grandmere, who finds out about the events of the school, and has a story of her own to share with Julian. By the end of Julian’s chapter, I was crying for Grandmere and her beloved “Torteau”.

The second story is Pluto. This is Christopher’s story. Christopher had been Auggie’s best friend for many years, until he moved away. He didn’t play a prominent role in Wonder, so his story doesn’t overlap with the events in Wonder as much as the other two stories. Christopher has some interesting insights on friendship and people’s reactions to Auggie. Christopher’s chapter focuses on making the right decision versus the easy decision.

The third chapter is Singaling. This is Charlotte’s chapter. Charlotte is a girl in Auggie’s grade, and one of the first children that Auggie meets when he goes to visit his new school. Charlotte offers a new perspective on the “war” that Julian gets into with Auggie, but she also finds herself facing her own issues as alliances and friendships amongst the girls in the class begin to shift. Charlotte is picked to dance in a performance at a benefit for the school, and this brings her closer to two of the other girls. Charlotte is a kind and insightful girl, who acknowledges her own shortcomings.

Auggie & Me is a lovely companion piece to Wonder. I do have a relatively minor complaint; Wonder came out in 2012, and so one must assume that Auggie & Me is also set in the same time period. There were a couple of references to things that were not around in 2012. Charlotte mentions Anna and Elsa in a Venn diagram of things that she and a friend liked in first grade, but Frozen didn’t come out until 2013. Charlotte also uses emojis that were not available in 2012. This is all relatively minor; it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story, and the target demographic might not even notice- but it stood out to me.

I would absolutely recommend Auggie & Me. Start with Wonder, and then read this book. I appreciate the opportunity to return to Auggie’s world, and it was interesting to see the same events from a new perspective. I even found myself feeling sorry for Julian- thank goodness for Grandmere for pointing out his culpability. I’m not sure if we will ever return to Auggie’s world, but this was a lovely companion book. My oldest daughter has been reading Wonder sporadically, and I know she will want to read this next.

 

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