We watched Wonder at the spur of the moment a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure whether B would enjoy it, since it’d be her first non-cartoon movie. But she did so immensely. And it was certainly the best movie to start the year on.
Based on the New York Times bestseller by R.J Palacio, WONDER relates the inspiring story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters a mainstream elementary school for the first time.
I thought it would be a good show for the girls to watch, since its themes of relating to children with special needs and coping with bullying in schools are especially relevant in their stage of life.
When we arrived at the cinema, I was glad to see that the small theatre was packed full and many parents had brought their children to watch this. We saw at least one special needs kid there to watch it too. I hope it encourages their families, that people care enough to want to understand, and want to make a positive difference.
It’s suitable for kids of all ages, and brings across the themes of compassion and acceptance very effectively, whilst having a great script and fantastic actors and actresses (Julia Roberts was superb as usual, and Owen Wilson was very convincing in his role as Dad, not to mention young Jacob Tremblay as the lead actor).
But one of my favourite characters personally, was Summer (photo below).
She quietly observed what was going on, and made the brave step of befriending Auggie in his loneliest moment, simply because she wanted to. Anyone familiar with how law-of-the-jungle school friendship dynamics (classroom politics?) can be, will know that this took guts and involved significant risk, not least for a middle-grader in an American elementary school.
So she’s my hero in the movie. What I’d tell my children is, whenever you can, be Summer.
At the end, B (almost age 7) said ‘I really liked this show, Mummy,’ and asked if we could get it on DVD to watch again. K also enjoyed it as the context of the show (elementary school setting) was both relevant and familiar.
What was most valuable to me was the good chat we had with the girls after the movie, and also reading more about the Treacher Collins Syndrome together. We gained a better understanding of the condition and how to make kids with the condition feel most comfortable.
Whilst it was apt for Hollywood to produce a show about a child being ostracised for his looks, it did make me wonder (pun non intended) about how children with other special needs have even larger obstacles to surmount.
Auggie and other children with Treacher Collins Syndrome look different but are intellectually on par with other children. For children with larger innate cognitive, intellectual and social/emotional challenges, moving to a mainstream school might be even more daunting and near-impossible. What then, does inclusivity look like for such children? Being in the same school as others might not even be the best for them. Certainly no easy answers there.
As background, the book Wonder (published in 2012, middle-grade fiction for those aged 8-12) was written after an incident where Palacio and her three-year-old son were waiting in line to buy ice cream. Her son noticed a girl with the Treacher-Collins Syndrome and started to cry. Fearing he would react badly, Palacio attempted to remove her son from the situation so as not to upset the girl or her family but it seemed that she ended up worsening the situation.
Thereafter, Natalie Merchant’s song “Wonder” (1995), which was written about a set of twins with congenital conditions, made her realize that her experience at the ice-cream shop could teach society a valuable lesson. Inspired by Merchant’s lyrics, and she began writing. She named the book directly after the song, and used the song’s chorus as the prologue of the first chapter.
The book Wonder has also a released spin-off, 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts.
This relates to the part of the story, when schoolroom teacher Mr Browne starts every class with a precept. On the first day of school, Mr Browne wrote:
When you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.
-Dr Wayne W. Dyer
#ChooseKind is thus also the hashtag for the show.
A friend asked recently about my One Word for 2018. After pondering at length, I figured that it’d be “Choose Kind”. Okay, that’s two words (and not a particularly grammatical phrase at that) since a hashtag doesn’t count, but there you have it.
It’s my One Word cos I find it so applicable, and challenging at the same time. It reminds me to #ChooseKind, whether it be relating to those at home, those at work or those at church. At every instance, I want to try my best to #ChooseKind. Because this world is messed up enough, because everyone has burdens enough, because there is enough negativity to share around twice over. And because change can and should begin with me.
What’s your One Word for the year?