|Year : 2021 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 289-290
Department of Pediatrics, Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, Punjab, India
|Date of Submission||28-Oct-2021|
|Date of Acceptance||28-Oct-2021|
|Date of Web Publication||29-Nov-2021|
Dr. Monika Sharma
Department of Pediatrics, Christian Medical College, Brown Road, Ludhiana - 141 008, Punjab
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Sharma M. Wonder. Indian Pediatr Case Rep 2021;1:289-90
| Wonder by R J Palacio|| |
What's better a movie or a book? A book, I guess. Because it lets your mind drift into the world of the story and lets you see the characters and feel their emotions like you were one of them. Well, I saw the movie, “Wonder,” first and that gave faces to the beings I imagined reading through the book. And I'll stick to my answer, books are definitely better than the movie, any day.
“You can't blend in when you were born to stand out” says the soothing blue cover of the first book by R. J. Palacio. It carries an animated half face of a boy with oddly placed eyes and ears, and no more features to see. I guess the animator found it easier to draw it like that for the main character, who is a child with a craniofacial malformation and genetic syndrome that the author doesn't name throughout the book.
August Pullman or Auggie, as everyone calls him, takes you through his thoughts and experiences as he joins school for the first time at the ripe old age of 10 years. Born with a complicated facial deformity (I read somewhere that Auggie has Treacher Collin's syndrome), he spent a good amount of time in his first few years; in and out of hospitals, undergoing several surgeries to correct the facial deformities, being fed through tubes while he recuperated and undergoing multiple plastic surgeries to make his face more acceptable to the world. But Auggie doesn't seem to have “felt” the surgeries as much, as he was affected by the astonishment, shock, and even fear that always accompanied the glances given to him by the rest of the world. With his lovable sense of humor, Auggie describes the people he has met and how they reacted to him, while he coolly goes on with his life. He introduces you to every member of his family, including his dog Daisy, in a way that makes you feel you have become a part of his life. Auggie is like just any other 10 years old with a fetish for anything that revolves around “Star Wars” or science. His handling of people's behavior though, is way beyond his age.
The book is described in chapters written in first person in a distinctive style that reflects the distinctive personality of the narrator. It takes you through the minds and thoughts of not just Auggie, but his sister, his friends and classmates. This type of portrayal helps you understand how each one feels about the fact that Auggie has a complex genetic syndrome, and how that knowledge affects their relationship with him. As he is directly joining middle school without any prior experience of the intricacies of school life, the school director arranges a preschool welcome with three children handpicked to be his buddies and show him around. Each of them is an individual with different reasons for being his buddy, and with different thoughts and reactions to Auggie and his face. At some point, the book transposed me back to my own school experiences of being the victim of bullying, and how it still affects me on my 1st day anywhere; a new institution, a new workplace or even just meeting new people for the first time. Paradoxically, it was actually refreshing to relive those days and I did what I've always wanted to do, read the minds of the friendliest and nastiest kids in my class.
As paediatricians, one gets to see children with problems and special needs that we know they will live with for the rest of their lives, and one thinks “let's accept that the universe hasn't been kind to ….” as someone says in relation to Auggie in the book. We sympathise with the family and what we think they suffer. As a third person and a doctor, one tends to forget that they are just as normal as the rest of us, apart from the medical issues that complicate the way society sees, and behaves with them. The World Health Organization describes “handicaps and disabilities” as more of a social disease than an individual's disease in themselves. If this concept has been difficult for you to understand so far, reading “Wonder” will definitely help you experience it. The book does its bit to help you understand that children with complex syndromes need empathy and compassion rather than simply sympathy.
The high points of the book are Auggie's mature and brave reactions to the comments that come his way from people that don't matter to him, and those that do. And not only that, it helps you understand what it feels to be his friend, his mother, his sister, his sister's boyfriend, his sister's best friend and anyone else, whose life Auggie has touched by his mere presence. The author has a wonderful and warm style of writing. Though this is Palacio's first book, it comes as no surprise that it has sold more than a few million copies, and became a best seller. I'll recommend this to be read by every paediatrician who feels that it is not just important to treat children with special needs but equally critical to understand what goes on in their minds, because I strongly believe that “healing goes way beyond treating!”
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Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.