Ever look back on your school life and think ‘Glad I don’t have to do that again!’ Imagine dealing with the typical school issues (opposite sex, hierarchy of groups, invites to parties … this is before we even get into grades) when you also have a disability? Then imagine the disability is a physical one.
That is the challenge that meets August. August was born with a facial deformity. He is approaching grade 5 and after dealing with surgeries and hospital visits most of his life, his parents feel he is ready to bridge from home schooling to main stream school. August lives with his very loving parents, older sister Via who is ‘normal’ and his dog Daisy.
This very powerful and moving book by first time author R. J. Palacio is a touching story of August, his family and the friends he made in his first year at mainstream school. From the incredible first paragraph with the sentences:
I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year old kid. … But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever the go.
You are hooked into August’s life and boy what a life he leads. It’s an emotional roller coaster as you find yourself wanting to protect this fictional character. The author captures the awkward feelings everyone has felt in ‘middle school’ from the sitting alone at the lunch table to the cliques that every school seems to have. August has to deal with these plus know that everyone is avoiding him. Well, not everyone.
August’s new head teacher, Mr Tushman, has arranged for students Jack, Julian and Charlotte to come to the school over the summer to show August around. While on the tour, we can start to sense some of August anxiety but also the willingness of some kids wanting to get past the ‘looks’.
The book is one that you continue to think about days after reading it. I was told it was geared to kids but really don’t think that this is a book that can be pigeon holed into one genre. The writing is beautifully crafted to embrace the many complex emotions most of us has endured at one time or another. It also covers many difficulties that people of all ages continue to battle in adulthood.
I’d be very surprised if this doesn’t win awards.