Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a beautiful and heartwarming book about the power of friendship and a community in the face of hate.

August, by all accounts, is a normal ten-year-old kid- except for one thing. He has a rare genetic disorder and despite twenty-seven different surgeries, he will never look like other kids his age. This makes life extremely difficult for “Auggie” and his family. His older sister is overprotective of him, and gets angry when people stare at him funny in public- and his parents, who only want what is best for him, do not want to send him to a public middle school where he may be bullied. However, what Auggie finds at school is something much different- he discovers friendship, and the power of love.

This novel was an incredible journey from beginning to end- and it is no ‘wonder’ that it was adapted into an award-winning movie. Wonder is essentially a book about discomfort- the discomfort we feel when we see a person that looks different from us in public, the discomfort they feel at the inordinate stares and whispers. However, it shows that this discomfort and pity can be overcome- to make way for community, love, and acceptance.

-Vaidehi B.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Interwoven by a single object, the three lives of children are forever changed by magical harmonica in the novel Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

The story begins with a young boy named Otto, who meets three sisters when he gets lost in a forbidden forest. Interacting with them, Otto realizes the mysterious nature of them. The sisters guide him home, and give him a harmonica with a special “M” seal. The harmonica makes its way to a young boy named Friedrich in Germany.

Hitler is rising, and the Nazi’s party influence is very prominent; resistance to it is very difficult. Discovering the special harmonica in the factory his Father works in, Friedrich plays it and realizes there is something special about it. Because of unforeseen circumstances, he is forced to get rid of the harmonica.

It travels next to Mike, an orphan, in Pennsylvania. Constantly taking care of his younger brother, Mike is looking for a break to help himself and his brother out of their destitute lives. Musically gifted with playing the piano, Mike discovers the special harmonica. He and his brother are eventually adopted, but there are some complications with their new guardian. The last child in the novel is Ivy. Receiving the harmonica, her special talent for playing is recognized by her teacher; her teacher chooses her to play a solo in a special concert, but Ivy’s Father receives a job, forcing her to move way. Her Father’s job is to take care of a farm of Japanese family, while they are in an internment camp. The neighboring farms are anti-Japanese, and some vandalize the property. The harmonica helps her adjust to the move. Each of the children’s lives have their own story with the harmonica, but the ending ties them all together beautifully.

Even though this book is intended for younger children, anybody of any age would enjoy this novel because of its simplistic nature and “feel-good” element. My favorite part of this book was how there were multiple stories, and they were told in such detail, that one was able to connect and understand the individual characters. It is also relatable because of the backdrop of the second World War, and how it impacted people differently depending on where they lived. The “magic” element made the novel all the more enjoyable because it captured the innocence of the young children.

I loved Echo, and I would recommend it to anybody looking for a light, quick read.

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

The novel Shooting Kabul by N.H. Sense is about a boy named Fadi who lived in Afghanistan. His family had no choice but to leave Afghanistan because the Taliban rose to power and they didn’t bring the good like they promised.

Fadi’s father, Habib, had secured the family a safe passage to America in the summer of 2001, as long as they crossed the border. The plan was to meet a truck that would carry Fadi’s family across the Peshawar, Pakistan. While Fadi’s older sister, Noor, was helping her sick mother, Fadi was in charge of taking care of his sister Mariam. All was going according to plan until the Taliban showed up.

Mariam is accidentally left behind because she dropped her barbie doll and she jumped off the truck to get it back. The rest of his family made it safely, but they were unable to properly move on with there lives until they knew Mariam would come back safely. While staying with his relatives in San Francisco, school had just started and he had to adjust to a new life. His new friend, Anh convinced him to join the school’s photography club and there was a competition where the first place winner gets a new camera and a trip to China, Kenya, or India. Then Fadi realized that India is right next to Afghanistan and if he won the competition, he could fly there, find Mariam, and bring her back home. Fadi spent all his time photographing the sights of San Fransisco. He knew that failure wasn’t an option, so he took the perfect picture of his grandparents and submitted it.

Later, there was news that terrorists had crashed planes into two skyscrapers in New York at the Pentagon in Washington DC on September 11. Many people believe that all Muslims are terrorists who support the men who hijacked the planes. Bullies at his school started picking on him because of his Muslim faith. Fadi truly believed that he would win the photography competition, but when he heard that he didn’t win, he was devastated. Fadi isn’t able to go to Afghanistan to find his missing sister. But, he did get an honorable mention for his entry, which attracted the attention of one judge who specialized in photographing war zones. The judge offered to show him some of his most recent work, which was taken along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While looking thorough the photos, Fadi saw a picture of Mariam playing with some other children at a refugee camp. Mariam was tracked down and she boarded a flight to San Fransisco to be reunited with her family.

I would would recommend this book to anyone who likes novels that involve historical background. This book was interesting and it involved the tragic event of 9/11.Throughout the the novel, you get to see the journey Fadi went through to save his sister in Afghanistan.

-Vanessa T.

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

In my 5th grade literature class, I was introduced to a charming little novel called The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. When I read through it as a 10 year old, I thought of the book as an exciting adventure and I remember thinking how humorous it was that the main character was an arrogant china doll rabbit that wore silk suits. But now, I go back and read it and I see more than a rabbit toy.  Encased within the text is a message of the importance of humility and compassion and the power to prompt the reader into self-reflection of their habits and heart.

Spoiled Edward is a parallel and a mirrored reflection of who we are as a society. Today’s culture is the epitome of arrogance. Just like how Edward stared at his own reflection and never ceased to be amazed at his own fineness, we try to be the person on social media with the most followers, we buy nice clothes and take immense amounts time caring about what people view us as. This is our image on the exterior. But on the interior, we are too full of arrogance and too empty of compassion. Luckily, this tale displays a miraculous change of heart. Edward gets lost and falls out of the comfortable life he lives with his rich owner. He witnesses broken hearts, lost dreams, hopelessness and death for the first time in his entire existence. His ego slowly disintegrates and at the end, a lonely, depressed Edward utters a very significant quote in this novel. He states, “‘I have already been loved . . . I have been loved by a girl named Abilene. I have been loved by a fisherman and his wife and a hobo and his dog. I have been loved by a boy who played the harmonica and by a girl who died. Don’t talk to me about love . . . I have known love’” (193). This journey is the catalyst that leads Edward’s cold heart into a state of vulnerability. His entire china body aches with grief because once he finally understands what love means, it is too late, for all the people he learned to love are gone. Edward, the king of his own little world, understands that the finest things in life are not gold pocket watches, imported hats and dashing reflections.

We can learn from Edward that we need to step away from ourselves and take time to love others who are less fortunate or in need of affection. Civilization can be swept away by arrogant ignorance which ultimately leads to destruction and turmoil. Therefore, this novel counters the coldness in our hearts and saves us from the cruel consequences of our actions. As Edward’s painted on eyes open to the conclusion that life’s greatest gift is love and love alone, the audience is awoken with him.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Into the Wild (Warrior Cats) by Erin Hunter

This is the first book to the Warrior Cats series, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It’s about a bunch of wild cats living in the forest that live in packs called Clans, and the battles, and the cats growing up and becoming warriors. The books are really action-packed and fun to read! And after reading this story, I just couldn’t look at house cats the same way ever again!

Anyways, to begin with, there are four Clans in the forest: ThunderClan, ShadowClan, RiverClan, and WindClan. There is also a StarClan, which is like the cats’ heaven. Everything is peaceful, until a mysterious omen arrives:

“Fire Alone Can Save Our Clan…”

For generations, four Clans of wild cats have shared the forest according to the laws laid down by their warrior ancestors. But the ThunderClan cats are in grave danger, and the sinister ShadowClan grows stronger every day. Noble warriors are dying – and some deaths are more mysterious than others.

And in the midst of this turmoil appears just an ordinary house cat named Rusty… who may turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.

-Katharine L.

Into the Wild by Erin Hunter is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.