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Image source: Okcu Film Lit

5 Books like Wonder: What Shines Within

Mandy Baldwin itcherR J Palacio’s 2012 novel is aimed at the ‘tween’ group but should be recommended reading for anyone who wants to see beneath the surface of mankind. Frank, funny, and heart-rending, it is the kind of story about self-acceptance which doesn’t preach but grips the reader so much that they won’t know how much they’ve learned until they get to the final page. Books like ‘Wonder’, ‘The Card Turner’ or ‘Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes’ are part of a genre which expresses what a Tween would never tell their closest friend. ~ Mandy Baldwin

In the Eye of the Beholder

Auggie is just ten years old and he is a normal kid in every way… except that children run screaming when they see his face. He doesn’t seek attention but he is stared at wherever he goes and it certainly isn’t that he’s a celebrity.

After being home-schooled, Auggie is to be thrown to the lions and finally must go to school, where, for the first time, there is no escape from other people’s opinions.

This is a complex story told in a variety of first-person voices and the strongest of them all is Auggie. But maybe you will hear your own in one of them and be disturbed to realise how they contribute to Auggie’s problem.

A novel of kindness and cruelty and real depth of feeling, ‘Wonder’ can teach us all a thing or two about what it is to be ‘different’.

***

Books Similar to ‘Wonder’…

‘Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes’ (Louis Sachar, 2013)

Image Source: PBS Static

Dogs don’t tell jokes but Gary does – to the point where everyone wants to punch him… some people don’t hold back.  But Gary knows he was born to be a comedian even if everyone else just thinks he’s an idiot.

Finally, the day comes when he knows he can showcase his natural talent for making people laugh in a good way: the Junior High Talent Contest. Gary begins to practice his routine because not only will this kick-start his future career, but he will win $100.

Then, he learns that he will be the only contestant, so what will the prize be worth?

His parents are so desperate about Gary’s behaviour that they bribe him with a gift of $100 if he will only do something other than tell jokes. Finally, he decides to earn his money and make friends, try other hobbies, and close the door on Joker Gary.

But just when he begins to feel as if he might be normal after all, he experiences an epiphany which affirms that he will always be a comedian and might just as well enter that one-boy competition after all.

Any book like this is worth reading and sharing and not only because it is far cuter and funnier than Gary’s jokes.

Similarity Match: 90%
Not all the things which make us feel ‘different’ are on the outside, and this story is almost as touching as ‘Wonder’.

***
‘The Card Turner’ (Louis Sachar, 2010)

Image Source: Contentful

Another from Sacher, who has almost cornered the market in books which show perfectly how it feels to be a fish out of water.

The last thing Alton wants to do is go to Bridge parties with his blind old Uncle but it beats getting a summer job in the shopping mall.  And his mother points out that it could be good for him in terms of securing an inheritance from the old man.

His intentions may not be good but his actions are. Alton discovers that all is not what it seems in the life of his Uncle, not to mention becoming increasingly gripped by some hidden family secrets which were tucked away.

A wonderfully laconic tale of an increasingly surprised boy who learns that all is not as it seems on the Bridge circuit in a small town.

Similarity Match: 80%
Alton is seventeen, which gives an added dimension to this story of what lies hidden behind his Uncle’s blindness.

***
‘Old School – Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, 10’ (Jeff Kinney, 2015)

Image Source: Mona Shores

Greg is already getting nostalgic for the old days as pressure builds at home and boring years of trying to be interesting stretch ahead of him. Greg will do almost anything to look cool, but unfortunately the real Greg revealed in his diaries is as far from cool as it can possible get.

With his family behaving increasingly badly and so many of his pranks and attempts to build popularity backfiring on him in disastrous ways, life becomes a struggle for survival.

All told as wittily as the rest of the Diaries, and with luck Greg still has far to go. This won’t be the last update.

Similarity Match: 75%
Most of Greg’s problems are self-inflicted but there is the same feeling of isolation caused by feeling like an odd-ball.

***

If You Like ‘Wonder’, You Will Like…

All the previous recommendations are very male-oriented but this selection shows the girly side of feeling as if you don’t fit in anywhere.

Warning: these were road-tested on my ten-year old twin nieces and all opinions given are theirs.

‘Dork Diaries: Puppy Love’ (Rachel Rennee Russell, 2013)

Image Source: Blogspot

“Nikki, Chloe. Zoey and Brandon are just like me, Louise, Kelly and Jacks. This one is more funny than the other Dork Diaries but I didn’t get the bit about Puppy Love, because it didn’t seem to have any more boys in it than the others. Read it one night in bed and now I want the next one.”

Samantha

“I don’t like Nikki much but I love all the others and these books make me laugh. I’m going to start having a diary next year but I won’t be able to make it as good as these ones.”

Jacks.

Apparently, ‘everyone’ reads these books and parents approve of them too, so it’s a win-win.

These seem to have universal appeal without making any particular point or attempting to preach. Children’s writers take note.

***
‘Little Stars’ (Jaqueline Wilson, 2014)

Image Source: Amazon

“I haven’t read any of the Hetty Feathers books before but I am going to now.  Hetty and her friend Diamond ran away from a circus but they still want to be in shows so they have joined a music hall group. Hetty has met her boyfriend and they all want to be famous now.

Really interesting if this is what it’s like to be in shows.”

Samantha

“I’m going to get all the other books now because I really like Hetty, and I’d almost like to be her. I don’t like the way Diamond gets pushed into the background much but I hope she will get stronger soon.”

Jacks.

What seemed to fire the girl’s imagination was running away from a circus and performing in general. They are now addicted to Hetty Feather.

Adventures for children are hard come by and these seem to hit the spot. No deep and meaningful messages, but very enjoyable.

***

Different Is as Different Does

These books are a real joy and fill a gap left between childhood and teen drama. Whether you choose the depth of ‘Wonder’ or a light-hearted book like ‘Little Stars’, these have been road-tested by their audience, and they pass with flying colours.

Do you ever wonder what it is your children are reading?

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