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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal


It’s easy to see why this book has so many fans.  What’s less apparent is why so many people believe it’s the frontrunner.  That’s not an easy position to hold as we found out last year with OKAY FOR NOW: first the excessive praise followed by the nasty backlash and the obsessive scrutiny that comes with the criticism and defense of the book.

This is an effortless brand of storytelling: an engaging first person narrative voice that draws readers in, a plot that is just as interesting as the characters, an urban NYC setting that is above average for the school story genre, and a heartwarming message of tolerance, acceptance, and goodwill.

It’s a book with many strengths.  I’ll let others nitpick below and skip to the big reason that this one falls just shy of my top group of contenders: I just don’t feel like Palacio ever had complete and total mastery of the story, at least not to the same degree as, say, Laura Amy Schlitz (where I felt every word and phrase was picked with purpose and precision–not that I’m driving the bandwagon for that one, mind you).

Case in point: the alternative viewpoints which were so effective early on became ridiculous by the end.  The boyfriend?  Really? It’s almost like Palacio knows there are too many viewpoints so she writes this last one sans capitals in order to differentiate it from the others, but it just comes off like a writing exercise gone awry–a bad David Levithan rip-off–and it sticks out like a sore thumb.

I hate to be Debbie Downer here because I really do like the book, but I don’t feel confident about its chances. I think it could be on the winning ballot; I just don’t know that it would be high enough to capture an Honor, let alone the Medal.  What do you think?

Jonathan Hunt About Jonathan Hunt

Jonathan Hunt is the Coordinator of Library Media Services at the San Diego County Office of Education. He served on the 2006 Newbery committee, and has also judged the Caldecott Medal, the Printz Award, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. You can reach him at


  1. I’ll admit to liking this one less and less the more time I spend with it. The multiple viewpoints thing works fine to a degree, but the boyfriend’s section, yes, doesn’t seem integrated at all. More damaging, I think, is that, in a book about how everyone is struggling with something, we never get to hear from Julian (or, failing that, Julian’s mom). I feel strongly that never allowing the ostensible villain to speak for himself undercuts the entire novel.

    • Sam, and Shoshona, I agree to a point. The only chapter I didn’t enjoy was the one about the boyfriend. BUT! This book was written for kids, therefore they should speak to kids insecurities. It would have been nice to see a chapter from Julian and find some redeeming value in his treatment of Auggie. That aside, kids today want everything handed to them on a silver platter, all wrapped up with a pretty bow. They feel entitled to treat others any way they want, with no ramifications attached. They have NO qualms of making fun of the least error in a person, never mind some poor kid who doesn’t have a normal face, something he can’t hide, and shouldn’t have to.

      This is the type of book, with true feelings about something kids can’t control, what you are born with, our children NEED to be exposed to type of literature. It is happening more and more. When I came to this campus 16 years ago, we had a unit with children who couldn’t walk or talk. Many were either spoon fed or through a feeding tube. I exposed my students to these children. The worst behaved kids in my class had the biggest negative reaction, no empathy, no forethought of how to respond appropriately. We spent class time discussing this classroom of children. Well, that unit moved long ago to another campus, but we have kids who have other issues, this book speaks to many of those issues. Bulling at the top of them!

      I LOVED this book!

  2. I thought what made the multiple viewpoints so effective was that they were unexpected, at least at first. You expect (or at least, I expected) this to be just a story about what it’s like to be Auggie, and then you’re reminded that Auggie’s experience affects everyone else’s experiences, and those experiences are worthy of stories, too. I agree that the bit with the boyfriend was a bit unnecessary, but time will tell whether that’s enough to knock the novel out of the running.

  3. I absolutely agree with Sam that not including Julian in the viewpoints really hurts the novel. One of the themes that I saw in the book was that everyone brings their own experiences and baggage with them to a new situation, we are not blank slates that are born anew with each new experience. To have Julian operate in a vacuum of hostility when every other major player (and some extremely minor players) get to have a say is baffling to me. We see some indications that Julian’s reactions to Augie are heavily influenced by his parents, especially his mother. What sort of message is he getting at home?

    It is very difficult to write the viewpoint of a “villain” character without either making him sympathetic and being accused of excusing his/her behavior, or without eventually redeeming him/her by the end of the story. One thing I *did* like about the treatment of Julian was that he never had a miraculous transformation like the rest of the class.

    I saw the viewpoint of the boyfriend to be less one of trying to understand what he was thinking and more about furthering the plot: we find out from him that he threatens Julian and his cronies, the stories of which work to discredit Julian. That was a particularly weak side plot. Personally, one of the criteria I use when analyzing for a well-crafted story is to ask myself if every scene (or even, as Jonathan says above in comparing the author to Laura Amy Schlitz, every sentence) is vital to the story and placed precisely where it will have the most impact both emotionally and for the plot. But the boyfriend’s section? I feel like you could remove it entirely and no one would ever notice.

    And so people don’t think I’m just dumping on the book: I did enjoy it. I have recommended it to several children who also enjoyed it. Being a good book and being a Newbery contender are not the same thing.

  4. Although WONDER is often entertaining and moving, its characters are devices not people. This was driven home to me when August, the saintly protagonist whose noble suffering makes everyone else better human beings by osmosis, becomes his formerly callous classmates’ mascot (“little dude”) after he’s picked on at camp. The book follows a relentlessly manipulative path to a cloying end.

  5. It’s been awhile since I read Wonder, but I think I agree with most of you. It is a great first novel. But I didn’t feel like it was crafted quite as well as some other contenders. I remember thinking it went on too long at the beginning. I got more interested when she started using other people’s perspectives. In general, I thought it could use some cutting. Some things were told from two perspectives when it didn’t really contribute to see the new perspective. Less time overlap between the speakers might have helped that. Also, it stays with Auggie for the whole first 80 pages. Maybe show that this is a multi-viewpoint book a lot sooner?

  6. Although I have not finished Wonder yet, I am able to relate to the story and how August feels, especially entering a new school for the fist time. I have a cleft Palate and can relate to many of the trials and tribulations that August is going through. The comments overheard at school and the everyday anguish of knowing that people are looking at you differently. It is difficult to deal with the questions and glances on an everyday basis. I left a school after one year because of the constant taunting and the depression of being an outcast because my face was different. The feelings were so deep that I didn’t even want to tell my parents what was going on everyday. This will stay with me for the rest of my life. There are times when reading that I tear up a little because I can relate to what August is feeling. I can’t judge this book on literary merit or stellar writing but I can tell you that the story hits so close to home that even now in my 30’s, reading this takes me back to those cruel days of elementary and middle school. I think this is an important book for children and adults to read and have many discussions about.

  7. I agree with most of what you all say… except that I didn’t really enjoy the book, either. Actually, in my goodreads review I picked out the boyfriend’s sections as being some of my favorite parts; I thought his voice was the most real and interesting. But I guess, either way, you could say that makes a case for his narrative not really belonging in this book. I honestly don’t get what is making people point to this as an example of distinguished writing. (Because it isn’t just a popular choice–maybe not here, apparently, but other people who understand the Newbery are putting it forth.)

  8. I should say that Wonder was the first book I read this year that I immediately thought “Newbery contender.” It was only after reading others that I noticed flaws. It’s got a big, important, and evergreen theme. And there is a certain level of complexity introduced by using multiple perspectives. It’s an extremely impressive first novel, and I admit I’d still be happy to see it get some honor, though I also feel like there are some good reasons why it might not.

  9. While I really enjoyed the book (and had no issue with the multiple viewpoints), I don’t think it holds up to some of the other great books from this year. I had two issues – first, that a lot of what people seem to love about the story is it’s didacticism. Does that hold up with the criteria?

    Second, [SPOILER] that scene where Auggie is given the special award for kindness. As I read the story, there were many things I felt that other kids learned from being around Auggie, but he never struck me as a lesson in kindness. Perhaps his presence encouraged the other kids to learn to be kinder? But Auggie himself never exemplified the spirit of kindness. He was just being a normal kid. And giving him an award for kindness completely detracts from that aspect of the book and undermines what I thought was the primary theme of the story. For me, that detracted from the story in a big way.

  10. I agree with just about everything that everyone has already written. I thought this was a very nice book, but not a very good book if that makes sense at all. I did enjoy reading it. The sentiments were lovely and the characters agreeably drawn (for the most part) but those same characters didn’t seem to have very realist reactions to me, and the ending undermined the whole plot in my eyes (Just TOO good to be true!). I will have no problem recommending this book to kids, but nothing about it says “distinguished” to me.

  11. Jonathan Hunt says

    I do not have a problem with the multiple viewpoints either. I actually think they are a strength of the novel early on. The plotting is fairly straightforward–a chronological account of the school year–so it’s the viewpoints that add a touch of sophistication to the narrative structure. But as the year is winding down, minor viewpoint characters are repeatedly introduced and the payoff for them is substantially less than the first few.

    Why does the boyfriend use capitals–and why is he the only one? It’s just a gimmicky way to try to differentiate a character’s voice. Why not try something more skillfull? I don’t want to get hung up on this. It’s not the only thing that bothered me. Rather, it was the tipping point for me, the point where I thought that in spite of the novel’s strengths, I just couldn’t reconcile the flaws with the Newbery criteria.

  12. I have no particular desire to pile on this book, but I’m with Wendy in not even particularly enjoying it. I found certain sections to be really poorly written. I am baffled that people are saw this as an obvious Newbery contender, let alone frontrunner.

  13. So i read WONDER in April and thought it was a fine novel but to manipulative to be a newbery contender. At the time I was teaching 5th graders who were excited about their upcoming move to middle school. I thought WONDER might provide some opportunities to discuss issues of empathy.
    So I used WONDER as a read aloud for two classes of 5th graders. I would read a few chapters to my morning class, later that day read the same chapters to my afternoon class. Reading the same sections aloud within a few hours of each other was a very interesting experience. I found myself doing a lot of eye rolling during the afternoon reading. Both the sentence level writing and the plot as a whole just didn’t hold up. The students really enjoyed the novel (especially the cheese touch reference and all the star wars stuff) but I came away from the experience with much less enthusiasm for the book.

    To echo some of the above comments and Peter Sieruta’s March 25 post about indistinct narrators, reading WONDER aloud made the similarities in the voices really stand out. The cadence or tempo of the sentences is the same for both Auggie and his sister. The prose had a really bizarre rhythm when read aloud.
    Has anyone else tried reading WONDER aloud?

  14. Jonathan Hunt says

    Here’s the link for Peter Sieruta’s post on WONDER. Scroll down . . .

  15. Totally agree with you, Eric. I read Wonder for myself first and enjoyed it. But then I read it aloud to three classes in a row each day, and it was painful. I found myself editing a LOT on the fly. So many words were repeated and the sentences were just clunky. By the way, you can skip whole sections (the boyfriend) without messing up the plot. My kids just wanted to hear from Augie.

  16. While I don’t totally disagree with everything already outlined here, and clearly I need to reread the book since it’s been awhile, the fact is that Wonder remains a highly praised title with lots of starred reviews (though I understand that doesn’t really mean anything in Newbery-land). In my library’s Mock Newbery, it consistently comes up as a front-runner in discussions, and it has circulated heavily in our library (and yes, with child patrons, not just adults).

    While the book is not without its flaws, I had problems with Okay for Now last year, yet still feel like Doug is one of the best-written and most memorable characters I’ve ever read. Can we still appreciate the elements of Wonder (if any) that are distinguished?

    Author Michael Cunningham, in writing about the Pulitzer deliberation process, said, “We would tend to favor the grand, flawed effort over the exquisitely crafted miniature.” It’s partly a personal preference, but I lean towards the books that strive big and don’t quite get there rather than the small books that don’t dare enough. Okay for Now and Wonder both reach for the stars, I think, in what they try to accomplish and maybe that’s why they fall a little short. I think Splendors and Glooms is also epic in this way, and another strong contender this year.

    Again, I probably need to reread the book, but I can still remember the strength of the characterization. As someone else mentioned, I thought it was immensely valuable to see Auggie and his life from the perspective of others in order to understand the way in which Auggie had an impact on those around him. I was particularly impressed with the depth of the adult characters – Auggie’s parents and their own conflicted feelings about Auggie and his abilities were conveyed with subtlety and depth. Via was an especially memorable character, and I felt that her voice and emotions were authentically complex.

    Just wanted to clear the air in case there are others who are still rooting for Wonder. Me, I’m going to start rereading.

  17. Great book in many respects, but I think its greatness, as it were, is more in getting an age group that often struggles with empathy, kindness, and other myriad social issues (middle schoolers) to think about those very things.

    I don’t think the novel was amazingly well crafted, but I have to say that Auggie’s voice and his sister’s have stuck with me throughout the year. I read this as an ARC and have read MANY books since then. I can remember this more than most. I thought the ending was a bit saccharine; the first third-half of the book is the best part.

  18. I would like to echo what a couple other people have said about the strength of the characterization. The characterization is not perfect, but it I think it does deserve to be discussed as being distinguished in that area. Auggie, his sister, and Jack are all characters that have stuck with me when many others haven’t.

    That being said…yes, I had multiple issues with the rest of it. I also didn’t get why Auggie received the award in the end. The end overall was a bit over the top. In terms of the themes the book deals with, I think Liar & Spy did them better.

    The aspect that bothered me the most though was the dog. I loved all the scenes leading up to that. The tension that was building between Auggie, Via, and their Mom was wonderful. I was so excited to see where this kind of confrontation was going to lead and how she was going to resolve it. And then she didn’t. I know that this is realistic and sometimes families reach a flash point where something should happen and then it doesn’t because life intervenes. But the dog dying? Really? I had to put the book down at that point and stomp around for a while because I felt cheated. By the most overused emotionally manipulative cliche there is. Months later I’m still irritated.

    What those of you who have read it aloud are saying is interesting. I am planning on reading it to my daughter in the next couple of months and I’m very interested to see how that affects my feelings for the book.

  19. I really liked Wonder, but don’t know how to defend it. I am really due for a reread. I had such a strong connection with all of the characters, and I really thought that while some of the characters having a narrative was unnecessary, it added so much depth and added to the theme of empathy. I also didn’t have a problem with the ending and while it maybe was a little too sweet and perfect, I think that it was preceded by lots of excellent character development. I think that the emotions I felt were well-developed and earned. Like I said though, I want to re-read it and see what I think.

  20. @Brandy: I’d forgotten about the dog! Yes, that drove me insane too. It’s just so incredibly cliched. I knew from the moment the dog was introduced as being older and as being very important to Augie that she was probably doomed, but I was hoping for better. And then the death of the dog was used for the absolutely most manipulative purpose. I think the conflict between the mother, Via, and Augie was a long time coming, and I don’t think it’s very healthy for any of them that it was never really resolved. If it wasn’t going to be resolved, I would have preferred for the lack of discussion to have evolved more organically. I was loving that the mother went to Via and not to find Augie in his nest the way that he clearly expected her to. Then, just as I was ready for all of that juicy character development we find out that the only reason the mother did not immediately chase after Augie was because it was clear that Daisy was sick.

    I did love the part where Augie makes a little nest of blankets and toys and then deliberately waits for his mother inside that nest so that she will be able to see how unhappy he is.

  21. I never thought I would type these words, but… I loved the part where the dog dies. I love that it’s the classic dog-dying scene that made me cry while reading this book, not any of the scenes about Auggie. And I liked how it happens in the middle of the book, because pets’ deaths are something that happen while life is going on. It reminded me of Picky-Picky’s death in the Ramona books.

    Also: best family since the Krupniks in Lois Lowry’s Anastasia series and the family in Christian Burch’s Manny books! The kid in me is really hungry for these functional loving families and likes to see them working out their problems together.

    I agree that the award for kindness at the end didn’t make a lot of sense, and made Auggie into a bit of a mascot.

  22. What I found strong in the book:

    The different POVs. I found this most effective when Via first steps in. I liked that we found out what Auggie looked like from her and not Auggie. I also liked that she had resentments. I liked that she had a Grandma that made her the favorite.

    The family dynamic.

    The organic movement of the story. I do feel like the author said what would happen if? And picked up from there.

    What I liked, but probably shouldn’t have:

    The dog stuff. I like to avoid conflict I’m happy Daisy helped the family out of a sticky situation with her death.

    The cheesy ending. (I won’t defend myself.)

    Valid issues from above commenters:

    The one-dimensionalness of Julian. Yes, it would have made the book stronger if he had been allowed a POV. Someone mentioned that it is hard to make a villain completely evil if he is given a voice. I love flawed characters. I remember a moment in CRISS CROSS, where the arrogant kid has some empathy for a man on a bus, but the next moment chooses to be a jerk to someone else. The narrator catches that moment as a point where his character took a turn toward the Jackass. I would have loved to see something like that with Julian, but then I didn’t write the book.

    I am intrigued with the read aloud comments. Many a book I enjoyed when read to myself I quickly came to loathe upon repeated out-loud readings. Flaws in cadence and structure are easily flushed out with this process.

  23. Great discussion of a very discussable book!

    I’d just like to back up to Jonathan’s characterization of last year’s discussion of Okay for Now for a second. While it’s true that excessive early praise invites an equally passionate response by those who disagree, surely that’s what it’s all about? I’m thinking that any book worthy of the Newbery Medal should be able to stand up to “obsessive scrutiny.”

    Or did I misunderstand your point?

  24. Every time I see the cover art for Wonder I think of Clockwork Orange!

  25. Jonathan Hunt says

    Absolutely any book that aspires to the Newbery Medal should be able to stand up to obsessive scrutiny and, yes, books that are perceived as frontrunners get more of it. OKAY FOR NOW got more of it on this blog than both DEAD END IN NORVELT and INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN which in turn got more here than BREAKING STALIN’S NOSE. That’s part and parcel of being perceived as a favorite.

    So bring on further discussion! Here’s something I’ve thought about in relation to our first two books. Both IVAN and WONDER rely, to some degree, on an emotional appeal to the reader, an appeal that is largely accomplished with a distinct and engaging first person narrative voice that helps readers identify with the main character. Since I don’t read primarily for emotion or character this kind of an appeal doesn’t move me nearly as much as other readers. I find with a book like WONDER there isn’t an intellectual component to grab me, whereas with IVAN there is a wonderful exploration about what it means to be human in terms of art, language, and society.

  26. The thing that made me like Wonder is that it made me think about how I would react if I someone like Auggie.When I was reading the book, I just felt a lot of compassion for Auggie and his family. I was talking with a fellow co-worker about Wonder and she felt that Auggie, thought a boy thought and spoke like a girl.

  27. Oops, I meant to write Auggie thought and spoke like a girl.

  28. @Jonathan: I do read for character and while I felt the characters in Wonder were done well the book overall failed to move me the way it had others. That is because I don’t read for emotion and am unlikely to be swayed by even the best of appeals to it if that’s all that’s offered. And yes, the lack of an intellectual component to grab me is why Wonder fell short of my expectations. Ivan has the characterization I love and the intellectual aspect and so impressed me despite my prejudices against animal books and my dislike of the cheesy ending.

  29. Jonathan Hunt says

    When you compare WONDER to other books with a similar appeal to the emotion of the reader (THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, and SEE YOU AT HARRY’S), how do you think it fares? If we could think of these loosely as tween tearjerkers, what are the strengths and/or weaknesses of each book?

  30. It’s always difficult to talk about style usefully here, but I think IVAN and to some extent HARRY’S are considerable cuts above the other two in quality of writing.

    WONDER has many genuine spots in it, but overall, “tearjerker” is the impression it leaves me with; the plot feels manipulated to produce a certain emotion or reaction. While IVAN and HARRY’S are also designed to elicit a reaction (every book is), their stories feel more organic; the characters behave and talk in consistent ways; the world doesn’t seem to be bending and stretching to serve the plots. That’s why I put WONDER and especially MURPHYS into the category I call somewhat glibly “guidance counselor fiction”, and not IVAN or HARRY’S. (Not that an animal book meets my criteria anyway, but that doesn’t matter here.)

  31. Wendy said it. I read behind all the elements of WONDER the author’s manipulation at work. I don’t like seeing the author’s hand so much when I read. I didn’t have that sense as much when I was reading IVAN. The manipulative points were there (cute baby animal baby animal being hurt, tearjerker end) but it didn’t feel has forced as many parts of WONDER did.

    I can’t compare it to the to the other two because I haven’t read them yet. I had MURPHY”S checked out but I had to take it back. I’m really having a hard time working up the enthusiasm. Honestly, I’m hoping I can make it through the Newbery season without reading HARRY’S. I read the synopsis. I know where it is going and I have a highly gregarious very cute four year old named Charlie. I don’t think any response I have to it will be worth a darn due to my emotional response, which I would really rather avoid thanks.

  32. Oh and Wendy I love the term “guidance counselor fiction”. That should be an official genre category. 🙂

  33. This is pretty harsh. I hope the Newbery team spends a little bit of time discussing why books are distinguished, instead of spending all of their time talking about everything that is wrong with the books.

    I feel that Wonder fits better with the Schneider Book Award. I love the book and have been amazed with the effect is has on its readers. I would say the effect is… distinguished.

  34. Nina Lindsay says

    Colby, I’m not sure I read harshness here, but I do read passionate. And this is a title that clearly invokes passion. I hope the Newbery committee discusses *everything* about a book. No book is flawless, and it often takes a full airing of issues with a book in order for it’s strengths to rise to the top.

  35. Jonathan Hunt says

    Following guidelines developed at the CCBC, the general practice of the committee is to discuss the positives of each book first and then the negatives.

    I’m not sure that WONDER has a clear path to the Schneider either. My money’s on TEMPLE GRANDIN by Sy Montgomery.

  36. While I can agree with passionate discussions, robust if you will, about the merits of a particular title including the pluses and minuses of each, what I do not understand is when professional people fail to do so in a civil manner. When people glibly suggest a new genre for a title that clearly demeans the efforts of the author, I feel that crosses the lines of healthy discourse.
    I have read The One and Only Ivan, Wonder, See You at Harry’s and One for the Murphys. I follow each of the authors on Twitter, reading about their writing processes, their exchanges between other authors and their readers and how each of them, as much as you can without knowing someone personally, view their world. I have read interviews about why each of them wrote their books. Every single one of them is based upon real life experiences in some respect.
    Originally the Newbery award was established “to encourage original creative work in the field of books for children.” This award was to bring to the public’s attention the value of children’s literature. One of the criteria for the award is: The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. I know this discussion is about Wonder but with respect to the other titles mentioned I have to say they are original creative work, they have brought the value of children’s literature to the public’s attention and every single one of them displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations.
    I read The One and Only Ivan to the entire fourth grade student body last year. It was a phenomenal experience for all of us. The discussions we had about the subject matter, the characters’ personalities, the writing style and the impact of the book on them were unbelievable. To me this is what makes a book distinguished; having a timeless appeal.
    I have had similar experiences with Wonder. After reading it I bought, at personal expense, copies for the entire staff in my elementary school building. The responses from the adults were moving. Even though it was near the year end, one proceeded to read the book aloud to his class. I have had previously quiet, non-readers, come up to me and look me in the eye and tell me Wonder was the…best…book…ever. When I recommended it to a teacher at the middle school, she read it aloud. When visiting her, a student staying in during lunch recess stopped me to tell me thanks for recommending Wonder to his teacher. He loved it that much. This teacher is reading it aloud again this year.
    When we talk about the positives and negatives of books I hope we will not discount the major audience for whom they are written. I hope we will not discount the work involved for these authors to become published. They deserve our upmost respect for their time and commitment. I intend to reread both The One and Only Ivan and Wonder as soon as my copies on loan are returned so I can further discuss them here.

  37. I didn’t intend for my comment to be demeaning, the moniker simply struck a chord with me and reflected much frustration I have with many titles I’ve read this year. But I see your point Margie, this is not the place to voice my snarky cynicism. It adds nothing worthwhile to the discussion.

  38. Jonathan Hunt says

    Margie, I’m having a difficult time reconciling your reading of the discussion here with my own . . .

    Nina posted a mixed reaction to THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, but the comments have been overwhelmingly positive. I posted a mixed reaction to WONDER, and the comments have been largely mixed to negative. Unfortunately, the few overwhelmingly positive comments for WONDER have focused on reader response rather than the literary elements of the book that elicit that response.

    In an effort to redirect the conversation so that we might tease out these distinguished elements, I offered up THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, and SEE YOU AT HARRY’S for comparison. These kinds of sad/heartwarming books have as much right to the Newbery as any other genre; there is nothing inherently wrong with appealing to the emotion of the reader. The question is how did they do it–and did one of them do it better than the others? Hopefully, we can have a running conversation about this across our discussions of individual books.

    Wendy’s guidance counselor fiction comment (which I personally found amusing–and which was only applied to WONDER and MURPHYS) seems fairly tame compared to some of the outrageous things I have said on this blog over the years. Of course, you may disagree and still find that it crossed the line, but did it really invalidate all of the passionate, robust, and civil discourse that did happen in this discussion? I don’t think so.

  39. To be honest, when I’m thinking about the Newbery I don’t care at all about an author’s twitter presence or reason for writing a book or writing process or way of viewing the world. I care about literature, and whether books are good, and what makes them that way. I do my best to keep the authors themselves out of it. I write here (and on Goodreads) knowing full well that the authors sometimes read what I write, and knowing that they will disagree with it and that it will not always be comfortable to read. Do I sometimes go too far? Yes, though I try not to. I don’t think my comment above was particularly harsh or demeaning. And I don’t think in-depth discussion discounts the work an author has put into a book. I try to avoid the pile-on, when comments basically become a “me too” of negativity.

  40. I wonder (ha!) if we might be harder on this novel because it’s been so wildly well-received in other quarters. I know I had a lot of people counter me when I first read it and said I liked it but wasn’t crazy about it. It’s nice to have a place where I can discuss what I don’t think worked with this book. I don’t feel like anyone has unduly attacked the book and certainly not the author. I haven’t been on the Newbery committee, but I imagine they must have to really tear apart a book and examine every facet. In order to make sure it’s distinguished, a book must be able to withstand a fair amount of scrutiny. Just my two cents (which doesn’t count for anything).

  41. Jonathan Hunt says

    Okay, here’s my third attempt . . . To me, Auggie’s voice is definitely one of the strengths of this book. It may not be perfect, but I do think there is an intangible quality that endears him to readers–above and beyond the empathy for his situation. OKAY FOR NOW had a magical voice last year, and I’m not drawing a comparison in terms of their respective quality, but rather noting that both books get a lot of mileage out of the voice, that they made readers overlook parts of the book they otherwise might not have. Eric mentioned OUT OF MY MIND as another comparison for WONDER, and I see that, too. It was a popular favorite and was picked by nearly every child-centered mock Newbery group that I saw results for, and I expect WONDER to do the same.

  42. I’m a sibling of a YA with special needs, and I’ve worked with hundreds of other siblings, so I often avoid books about kids with special needs – I’m too close and see everything they get wrong. I avoided this one as long as I could, but read it last month. I will say that it was one of the best sib relationships I’ve seen (up there with Choldenko’s Al Capone books) and I understood Via perfectly. That line about her mother turning from her mother into Auggie’s mother, when she had to leave their movie day to pick him up? Yes, 100 times yes! Nailed it in one line.

    I liked this well enough (although for a book with a message of Choose Kind, I was furious to see both Auggie and Via say “Well, at least I’m/you’re not retarded.” Awesome! At least you’re not my brother, yep yep. Par for the course), but I don’t see it as Newbery worthy.

    Bringing it to voice, I thought all the 5th graders read at least as 7th graders. At one point, his friend (Jack?) says that Via is hot. How many 5th graders do that? I liked the round robin approach to telling the story, although I agree that having Julian would have rounded it out nicely, but the voices weren’t often different enough to warrant the many POVs presented.

  43. Um, Brandy, I just read your comment and skipped down to add: Please DO NOT read Meet Me at Harry’s! With a 4-year-old son named Charlie, you just don’t need to do that to yourself! (When I had just had a baby, I kept watching movies where a baby dies, and thought such movies should come with a warning label!)

  44. Haha Sondy, Thanks! That is what I figured, good to know I was correct and I will definitely NOT talk myself into reading it to be sure.

  45. Anyone read JAKE & LILY by Jerry Spinelli? I actually liked his approach to bullying better than WONDER . . .

    Is Spinelli a forgotten author? I feel like he’s still got some award winners left to write. Why not JAKE & LILY?

  46. I thought Spinelli nailed what it’s like to be eleven.

  47. @Mr. H: I didn’t like the approach to bullying any better in JAKE & LILY than in WONDER. I thought they were similar in their dramatic techniques and sweeping changes. In my opinion LIAR & SPY trumps both of them as far as the bullying theme is concerned. I am surprised to not have heard more buzz about JAKE & LILY though . It wasn’t one of my favorites of the year but I certainly found it to be just as good as, if not better than some of the books that are garnering more discussion.

  48. I thought JAKE & LILY was great, and called it “the book to read about bullying this year”. I thought it told a much more real story, and was in a way more challenging to the reader in the way it makes you go from empathizing with a character to uncomfortably hating him and then works you back to loving him again.


  1. […] on Heavy Medal, SLJ‘s blog on the race to the Newbery, run by Nina Lindsay and Jonathan Hunt. Jonathan has just posted on Wonder, a book that got starred reviews just about everywhere but here. So good to see that the fight is […]

  2. […] of these books are, I think, strong Newbery contenders and have been discussed over at Heavy Medal: Wonder and We’ve Got a […]

  3. […] Grade Fiction Wonder. R. J. Palacio. Knopf. Told from multiple perspectives, this poignant, honest realistic read, a boy […]

  4. […] read it yet, give it a chance.  It may be message-driven (or what some have called “guidance counselor fiction“), but it’s a message to which I feel a strong […]

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