News

A Wondrous Life

Author R.J. Palacio talks to TFK about her highly praised book, Wonder

October 29, 2012
COURTESY PHOEBE WEINTRE

TFK Kid Reporter Phoebe Weintraub (right) talks to author R.J. Palacio

Have you ever dropped your lunch tray, fallen while running up the school steps or blurted out the wrong answer to a teacher's question? Did it feel as if the entire student body was staring at you? Imagine being stared at everywhere you go, every day of your life. That is what it is like for August Pullman, the main character in Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

August, who goes by the name Auggie, was born with a misshapen face that has required many surgeries in his 10 years of life. After being homeschooled his entire life, he starts fifth grade at a local school. It isn’t easy being the new kid, especially since Auggie looks different from everybody else.

Wonder is R.J. Palacio's first book. The author talked to TFK about how she came up with the idea for the story and how writing Wonder has changed her.

TFK:

How did you come up with the idea for Wonder?

R.J. PALACIO:

About five years ago, I found myself sitting next to a little girl who had a severe facial difference. It was the way I reacted and my kids reacted that made me started thinking [about] what life must be like for that that family, for that little girl. That really got me thinking about what life must be like for someone who lives with a facial difference.

TFK:

You have worked as a book jacket designer for many years. When did you decide to become a writer?

PALACIO:

You know what? I always wanted to be a writer, but I never found the time to write. When this incident happened five years ago, I made the time to write. I'm a mom, I have two kids and I have a full time job. The only time I have to write is in the middle of the night, so I established a routine. I would get up at midnight and write until 3:00 in the morning.

TFK:

How did you come up with the details for August's face?

PALACIO:

They were based on what I remembered [about] this little girl's face. Then I did some research on facial differences and realized that what the little girl had was something called Treacher-Collins syndrome. I combined it with a mysterious syndrome that caused him to look the way he looks.

TFK:

Did writing this book change the way you feel about people with differences?

PALACIO:

It made me realize that talking to people is better than running away or not talking to them at all or pretending that you don't see them. I didn't do that that day with the little girl because I was afraid that my son would cry and her mother would be upset so we just left.

TFK:

Did you ever feel left out when you were younger?

PALACIO:

Sure, absolutely. I think we all go through times when we feel like the outsider or not in the popular group, whatever that means. I can't say that I was ever picked on or bullied, but there were moments when I felt that I wasn't part of the crowd.

TFK:

Did you write a lot when you were younger? 

PALACIO:

I wrote all the time, and I wrote as much as I could. I had a lot of stories in me. I loved to write and draw, and I wanted to write a book and draw for it.

TFK:

Do you plan on writing more books?

PALACIO:

Yes! That is an easy one!

TFK:

If you could pick any actor to play August in a movie, whom would you choose? 

PALACIO:

That is really tough. I hope that if there were a movie, they would hire a kid who does have a facial difference. But that would be pretty brave of them to do. But that is my hope—that it wouldn't be just an actor that they would put makeup on.


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