Greetings readers! This is Ms. McCall, the Pike library assistant that pops in and out a couple mornings each week. I’m so excited to make my Reading Corner writing debut to talk all about one of my favorites topics in reading -unique points of view!
Recently a Pike reader asked me one of my favorite questions: “What should I read next?” She was looking for a book like Wonder by R. J. Palacio, a book that made its way around the student body and faculty members at warp speed last year. If you’re not familiar with the title, Wonder is the story of Auggie Pullman, a boy with a facial disfigurement that makes him a bit of a novelty at school and in his community. Others have trouble interacting with him out of fear and unknowing and yet Auggie’s quirky personality still shines through to friends and family. The story is told from Auggie’s point of view with bits and pieces told through family members, friends and classmates too; all different voices weaving together to tell one story.
What’s so great about reading a story like Wonder is not only exposure to a character’s life that is much different from your own, but also getting to stand in that character’s shoes. The following recommendations are for readers who loved Wonder and want a chance to explore other unique, compelling points of view in character-driven novels:
1. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
(A 2013 Mass. Children’s Book Award Nominee!)
Thought to be an empty shell of a girl by her doctors, teachers and classmates, Melody may be silent, but she just might be the smartest student in her school. She is burdened by a photographic memory, with a mind like a video camera with no ‘Off’ button. Stuck inside her own head, hearing pre-school level lessons and not being able to talk, walk or write is driving Melody out of my mind. How can Melody connect those swirling thoughts and words in her mind with her voice?
Much like Auggie, Melody has a condition that makes life and social interactions, especially school, much more difficult.
2. Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
(A 2012 Mass. Children’s Book Award Honor Book!)
Because of her Asperger’s, Caitlin only sees things as right or wrong, black or white and needs her older brother Devon to explain the complicated gray areas in the middle. When Devon dies, she doesn’t know how to cope nevermind get over it, and her father offers no support. With the help of her community, Caitlin tries to seek out all the messy, unexplainable colors beyond black and white now that Devon is gone.
Like in Wonder, Caitlin’s journey of self-discovery pulls in the participation and support of everyone around her.
3. Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
(A 2011 Mass. Children’s Book Award Nominee)
Jason, a twelve-year-old autistic boy who wants to become a writer, relates what his life is like as he tries to make sense of his world. While most days it’s just a matter of time before something goes wrong, Jason seems to find a potential friend in PhoenixBird, who posts stories to the same online site as he does. But will his autism hold him back from meeting his only friend in person?
Jason feels trapped by his condition in every social situation and can’t seem to make friends, like Auggie. Unlike Auggie, Jason takes comfort in finding his voice online.
4. Rules by Cynthia Lord
Sometimes living with someone with a disability can seem just as debilitating as having one. With a brother with autism and a family that revolves around him, twelve-year-old Catherine has never had a normal life. She’s spent years trying to teach David the strange albeit understood rules of life, from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public,” to curb his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the girl next door, it’s her own behavior that shocks her and makes her wonder: What is normal?
Rules presents a more in depth look into the sibling perspective we were introduced to in Wonder, and how that relationship formed the basis of all other relationship in her life.
5. Fire Girl by Tony Abbott
All eyes are on Jessica, not only because she’s the new girl at school, but also because she looks like no one else. Having been badly burned in a fire, Jessica has skin grafts and 3rd degree burns covering most of her body. From the perspective of her classmate Tom, the reader gets to see not only the heartache of meeting someone with a horrible appearance that evokes fear from most, but also the nastiness it creates in others, who begin to gossip and spread lies about the girl they hardly know. Tom’s journey is just as emotional as Jessica’s likely would be, but will Tom openly stick up for Jessica if its at the stake of losing every other friend at school?
In Wonder, one of the best reading experiences was seeing from Auggie’s point of view, his friends points of view and his enemy’s point of view. Likewise, Fire Girl shares Tom’s emotionally raw point of view that defies what his friends think and what Jessica has come to expect from others.