Posts Tagged ‘R. J. Palacio’

Five Fabulous…Books Which Challenge Stereotypes

fab-five-logo-e1397403514389Five Fabulous Books is an original feature here at Big Book Little Book. The aim of the feature is to showcase fabulous books and bookish things, with connecting themes, there by promoting reads we have enjoyed and sharing recommendations for similar books. We love to share contributions from fellow bibliophiles, bloggers, vloggers and twitter users. We love to hear from you too, so don’t forget to comment with your favourite themed books. You are very welcome to use the Five Fabulous feature on your own blog just be sure to link back to Big Book Little Book and leave your link in the comments below so we can check out your recommendations! Feel free to copy and paste our Fabulou5 graphic or create one of your own.

I can say with absolute certainty, that I have read a lot of books that have heavily influenced my views on certain subjects. A lot of novels (fictional or non fictional) have made me realise how easily prone I am to accepting stereotypes and to taking everything I see in the news as fact.

Here are five fiction books that have really changed my ideas and opinions:

Wonder-R J Palacio
“I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking it’s probably worse”
Auggie is a boy born with “mandibulofacial dysostosis” more commonly known as Treacher Collins Syndrome with a cleft palette. The story follows his insistence to go to a public school and how manages even with an obvious face disfigurement.
This book was an amazing story and Auggie is a really inspirational and brave character who you just love. It really made me think about the treatment of people with physical disabilities, not only the people who can’t help but stare but the people who are overly nice or fake towards these people because they are physically different. It was thought provoking and interesting and I would definitely read it again.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece-Annabel Pitcher
“My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece. Well some of her does. Three of her fingers, her right elbow and her knee cap are buried in a graveyard in London.”
This book was a brilliant read and it makes you think not only about child bereavement and neglect but also stereotyping terrorism (cheery stuff) but what really struck me was the way the book was written like a child, very naïve and pliant. The protagonist is a little boy and one of his twin sisters is killed in a terrorist attack in Trafalgar Square by people who consider themselves part of the Islam religion. This turns his father against people of the Muslim religion because he believes that ‘all Muslims are terrorists’. When Jamie befriends a Muslim girl, he struggles to be friends with her as well as staying on good terms with his father, all this at the age of five.

Looking at the Stars-Jo Cotterill
“The only way we can survive is to work together. Each of us must play our part. The minute we stand alone, we fall alone.”
As one of my absolute favourites, ‘Looking at the stars’ follows two sisters whose lives have been destroyed by a war in their country. They need to reach a refugee camp and find their missing mother and younger sister. After a reread, this book became particularly poignant due to the very full coverage of ‘the refugee crisis’ in the media. Although the novel is fictional, it really opened my eyes to the kind of treatment that refugees receive after losing everything and the importance of family and friends. No matter where you stand on this issue, this book is certainly worth a read.

Will Grayson Will Grayson- John Green and David Levithan
“me: you just sound so gay.
tiny: um . . . there’s a reason for that?
me: yeah, but. i dunno. i don’t like gay people.
tiny: but surely you must like yourself?”
Structurally, ‘Will Grayson Will Grayson’ is an interesting book written by two authors who both wrote two different Will Grayson characters in alternative chapters. This is interesting because when their paths cross you know both the character’s stories. While not really being a classic ‘John-Green-cry-your-eyes-out’ sort of story, it challenges views on the LGBTQ+ community and while one Will Grayson is straight, he meets the other Will Grayson who is gay but in the closet, gay Will Grayson actually goes out with straight Will Grayson’s very flamboyant gay best friend Tiny Cooper. This book presents all different sorts of people struggling to find themselves and shows how difficult it might be for a gay person to come out of the closet. The book was so popular it reached the New York Times Children’s Books Bestseller List and stayed there for 3 weeks, the first of any book with any sort of mention to the LGBTQ+ community to reach the list.

The Kite Runner- Khaled Houssini
“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.”
I loved this book! It is so powerful and thought provoking and shone a light on a whole variety of traditions that sometimes are ignored by western culture. I was very emotionally invested in the characters and it changed my views on ideas like the Taliban, terrorism and cultural tradition. After reading this book, I realised the powerful effect on people o th media and how people are changed by the government and it follows a story of two friends and one is a servant to the other’s family. It is a representation of slavery and terrorism that still happens today.

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R.J. Palacio

wonder“My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”
Wonder is probably the most thought-provoking book I’ve read in a long while. It makes you feel angry about the injustice of the world. August feels ordinary, He does ordinary things, he has an Xbox and a dog and he eats ice-cream and rides his bike like an ordinary boy. The problem is he doesn’t look ordinary. How can you blend in when kids run away screaming from you in the playground? How can life be easy when you were born to stand out? August’s parents both had the same gene; he had a 1 in 50,000 chance but I guess he was unlucky, because he has treacher Collins Syndrome.

Definition-. “Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS), also known as Treacher Collins–Franceschetti syndrome, or mandibulofacial dysostosis is a rare autosomal dominant congenital disorder characterized by craniofacial deformities, such as absent cheekbones. Treacher Collins syndrome is found in about 1 in 50,000 births. The typical physical features include downward slanting eyes, micrognathia (a small lower jaw), conductive hearing loss, underdeveloped zygoma, drooping part of the lateral lower eyelids and malformed or absent ears” (Wikipedia, 2014)

These are the normal symptoms and there is nothing else apart from your facial features that are affected by the syndrome. So you feel completely normal but look far from it. You want to know the worst part? There isn’t anything he can do about it.

He’s never been to school and his parents want him to go, although they’re really not sure themselves. How will everyone react? It’s hard starting a new school but how hard would it be with a face that gives people nightmares? When he starts, it turns out OK, he knows people stare and point at him when he walks past and whisper about him behind his back. He does, however, quickly make friends with a girl called Summer and a boy called Jack Will. There is still one person who can’t get over it and he is really horrible to August. This book tells of all the hardships of life when people only look on the outside…

I really liked the book. But it was really sad. I like the fact that it was written bylots of different people’s point of view. I think it is not suitable for younger readers because it’s a very difficult topic and very hard to get your head around. And also, I suggest you read it with a box of tissues nearby as it is quite hard to read for the emotional reader (AKA me, I found myself with tears in my eyes in more than 1 point…)

Verdict: Overall I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a good read and to have their thinking challenged about how we judge people.

Reviewed by Daisy (12)

Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 215
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Daisy (12)
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
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Carnegie and Greenaway: Wonder

R. J. Palacio

Wonder cover artMy name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.
August Pullman wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things. He eats ice cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.
But Auggie is far from ordinary. Ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, for the first time, he’s being sent to a real school – and he’s dreading it. All he wants is to be accepted – but can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?
Narrated by Auggie and the people are around him whose lives he touches forever, WONDER is an funny, frank, astonishingly moving debut to read in one sitting, pass on to others, and remember long after the final page.

Wonder is quite frankly an amazing book that well and truly deserves its place on the Carnegie Shortlist. I read the book in a night and needed copious amounts of tissues as I neared the end. It should be made clear however that this is not a sad book, instead it is one that highlights the better side of human nature. Although the darker side does raise its ugly head from time to time, this book shows how human kindness can overcome it. Yes there are parts that are quite corny and twee, but I was left with such a feeling of hope after finishing the book, so much so that the corniness didn’t really seem to matter.

Auggie is the main character in the book, even when we read from the point of view of other characters. Born with a severe facial deformity he has had a lot to overcome in his 10 years. Previously homeschooled his parents decide to that now is the time he should start at mainstream school. Auggie is apprehensive but decides to give it a go, it’s not like he isn’t used to the way that people look at him. Initially ostracized there are a couple of pockets of light in the dark. In the end, despite the wishes of a boy who is obviously scared of being different, Auggie gains the acceptance of his classmates by showing a incredible quiet strength.

Wonder is written from the perspective of a number of central characters, all people whose lives have been touched by Auggie. I did miss the perspective of Auggie’s parents but at the end of the day this is a book for pre teens not for adults and the characters that they would wish to hear from are all covered. All points of view were written in the first person, but I always knew whose voice I was hearing. I liked the way that this was done, I don’t think that the book would have had nearly as much impact has it all been written from Auggie’s point of view as a large part of the storyline was how he, as a person, affected the lives of those around him. I also think that the decision to write the book in the first person was a good one. It is a very emotive book about a very emotive subject, the first person narrative reinforced this as the reader feels an intense emotional connection to what is going on.

I also liked the fact that although this book focuses on the better side of human nature, the ‘good’ characters weren’t perfect. Via sometimes resents her brother for taking her parents attention away from her and whilst she loves her brother doesn’t always want the hassle that being seen with him brings, their parents disagree on Auggie starting school, Jack gives in to peer pressure and talks about Auggie behind his back and Auggie does feel anger and resentment at the lot that he has been given. Had these characters not had these little imperfections then Wonder would not have seemed as real and I don’t think it would have succeeded in putting across the message that we should all take time to look at who a person is as that is what counts.

I’m not sure that it will win Carnegie, I think it may be a little sentimental to actually win the prize. It has however been a welcome break from the heavy darkness that can be found in some of the other books on the shortlist. And although I don’t think it will win part of me wishes that it would.

Verdict: A beautifully written, emotional book that give me hope for the nature of human kindness.

Reviewed by Alison

Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Publication Date: January 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Coming of age
Age: Middle grade/ Teen
Reviewer: Alison
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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