Wonder, by R. J Palacio, is a special book in our family. We first heard about it as recommended reading from the headmistresses of the girls’ school. It’s about August Pullman, a 10-year-old boy with a severe facial disfigurement who enters mainstream primary school for the first time. It’s told from the perspectives of mainly 10-year-olds.
It’s difficult to find kid’s books of substinance – so I immediately bought Wonder and gave it my 10-year-old daughter. She devoured it. Then her two older sisters read it. I had to sneak it away from them to get my turn, and then my husband took it from me. It’s unusual for us to find a book the whole family enjoys, but Wonder captured all our imaginations.
The main themes – acceptance, bullying – are acutely relevant today and ring strongly. But what is so clever is that by being in a children’s book (that adults read too), it’s a gentle and humanising way of tackling difficult, topical issues. Also, as we all know, stories resonate.
When we heard Wonder was to be made into a film, the girls were very excited, though my heart sank slightly. When you love a book so much that it sits on the top of your bookshelf, even years after you had read it, the film can easily disappoint. The stars really have to align to pick out the right bits of the book and adapt them to the film medium. And if it steers too far from the book, fans will hate you. You don’t want little fans to hate you.
We all wondered of course what Auggy would look like, because he himself tells you in the first chapter: I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
The cast is pretty amazing! Jacob Tremblay (who played Jack Newsome in Room) is August. Julia Roberts (!) is his mother, and Owen Wilson (I loved him in the Internship) is the playful, comic dad. Isabel Vidvic plays Auggy’s sister Via, who finds being the sibling of a special needs kid challenging. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Vidic soon.
My daughters were most excited by Daveed Diggs, who originated the role of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton. Diggs plays the hipster home room teacher and shines in his first film role.
So how was it? We absolutely loved it. The film stays true to the book, with some minor exceptions. Auggy’s face was not as bad as we thought it would be – but perhaps that’s the point. There are light-hearted funny bits that Wilson especially is so good at. Julia Roberts adds the wholesomeness and a little je ne sais quoi. And yes, there were tears in the audience. There were also some really big smiles and the feeling that kindness still avails, even in the gentlest of voices.
My 12-year-old’s perspective
My whole family ready the book Wonder and I was very excited to find it they were making it a movie! However, mum told us not to get too excited as it would he hard to make a film out of the book. Wonder, however, lived up to, if not succeeded, our high expectations. It was a great film and kept very close to the plot, which we liked, and it included different people’s points of view, which was one of the best part of the book.
My 15-year-old’s perspective
After reading the book Wonder, the film definitely did not dissapoint. In addition to being very entertaining it incorporates an important message, and is an enjoyable film for all ages. In particular, I liked the dad character (played by Owen Wilson) as he was very funny and his dynamtics with the rest of the family were particularly entertaining. However all the characters played their parts brilliantly and the film was able to capture the excellence of the book.