Tuesday, July 8, 2014
Book Review: The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story
The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story
By R. J. Palacio
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014
Reviewed from e-book
Audience: Grades 4 to 8
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Julian is the bully from Wonder. He is the one that gives Auggie the hardest time, and makes sure that no one else will befriend Auggie, except those that are independent thinkers, like Summer. While there are many different narrators in Wonder, each contributing their own views of Auggie, Julian is never given a narrative voice, mostly because Palacio believed that would have taken away from the intent of the story. Now Julian gets his voice and readers will come to realize that while his actions were very regrettable, he had reasons (again, not good reasons) for acting the way that he did.
Julian was used to being popular and liked by everyone. Then when he meets Auggie, he is reminded of night terrors that he used to have as a child. This leads him to not only distance himself from Auggie but also go on a misguided mission to remove Auggie from his life entirely. His mother also gets in on the action once she sees Auggie in the school picture, and learns that the night terrors have returned. This story does not condone their actions, but it does at least explain them, which is more than you get from most bullies.
The real heart of the story occurs after Wonder has wrapped up and Julian's family have moved him to a different school. While visiting his grandmother in France, Julian learns about his namesake, a crippled child that saved his grandmother from the Nazis during World War II. She had been unkind to him, but he still saved her, and she learned from how she treated him. Her story is the most compelling part of this whole tale.
Ultimately, the reader again learns to choose kindness. And if parents didn't get enough lessons from Wonder, then in The Julian Chapter they learn that you can't just look out for your our child, but rather all children. Julian is the center of his mother's world, and while it's admirable that most of the time she fights so hard for him, in this case, she was entirely wrong. At least she realized this in the end as well.
I would say that The Julian Chapter is required reading for everyone that loved Wonder. It's not just a device to sell more books by creating extra content. There is really another story to be told here and it will give some readers more closure.