Monday in the Middle: Wonder,
Another installment of Monday in the Middle with librarian and media specialist Gabija Fischer!
Wonder by RJ Palacio
RJ Palacio’s Wonder is the story of Auggie’s transition from homeschool to attending a traditional school. This in itself would be a challenge for anyone, but Auggie, born with severe facial deformities, must also combat the stares, fear, and avoidance of his peers. But the struggles aren’t Auggie’s alone. His parents wonder if they’ve made the right decision: how can they protect him from the cruelties of the world while give him the freedom to mature too? And his sister, Via, a constant source of love and support suddenly becomes self-conscious of her image as Auggie’s sister.
I cannot believe that it took me this long to crack open Wonder. I kept seeing it on the bookshelf and just not feeling the urge to read it, but boy am I sorry I waited this long. Palacio’s message should be shouted from the rooftops: Choose kindness! Told through multiple perspectives, this story is sure to strike a chord with everyone: those who have been unkind to others, those who have been the recipients of unkindness, those who have been bystanders of unkindness, and those who deny that unkindness even exists.
But Palacio’s story reminds us that life really could be better for everyone. It’s so simple. Just remember Palacio’s message to “always try to be a little kinder than is necessary.”
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
The KGB pounding at the door disturbs the calm of the night, and Lina and her family are whisked away from the modest, yet peaceful lives they have always known. So begins Ruta Sepety’s harrowing story Between Shades of Gray, the story of a Lithuanian family torn apart and forced to rely on hope when things seem so hopeless. Conditions are grim for the Vilkas family, as they are torn from their home and crammed into a cattle car with thousands of other Lithuanians, but conditions are even worse when they reach their destination, a Siberian work camp. Forced to live unthinkable lives, people at the work camps, both prisoners and KGB soldiers, must decide what is worth living for and what is worth dying for.
Sepetys brings to light an important historical event, one that is often overlooked in the shadow of Hitler’s atrocities. Between Shades of Gray teaches of the strength of the human spirit of the Baltic people treated so harshly by Stalin’s KGB. It was easy for me to relate to this book, as this parallels my family history. However, others who read it will be equally as moved as I was because it is a story of hope, love, and resilience. But, be warned, your stomach will tense and your heart will ache as you experience the darkness of Siberian work camps and the hope some characters cling onto. Oh, and be within reach of some tissues.
Gabija Fischer currently works in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District. She has been immersed in young adult and children’s literature this school year since she is currently working as the library media specialist at the middle school. The best part of her day is the part that follows the question, “Can you help me find a book?” Finding the answer to that question feeds her competitive nature, as she views the search like solving a puzzle. She finds much excitement in finding just the right book for someone.
I was also moved and transformed by Wonder, and I’m so glad you highlighted it here. I have not read Between Shades of Gray. Your review makes me want to read it, and I appreciate the warning to be prepared for difficult and haunting scenes, all the more because they’re based on real events.
Janice, I can’t believe it took me as long as it did to pick up Wonder. I find that when there is a lot of hype around a book, I tend to have expectations that cannot be met. However, Wonder exceeded my expectations.