April 13, 2014 1 Comment
The story is about August, a ten year old boy with a facial abnormality, and his journey into mainstream school. It is a book about bullying, acceptance, empathy and friendship. It is a book that emphasises the understanding of people as people and not just faces. It is a book that confronts the way in which people react to those who are different. It confronts the ignorance, the fear and the stupidity of selfish, self righteous fools. One example of this confrontation is with Julian and his parents, who epitomise this ignorance, and are the focus of all of my bad thoughts whilst reading this book.
It is well written, from the perspectives of different characters within the novel, each getting to express their opinions and allowing us an insight into their minds. I understand that there are some critics who may feel like having all of these voices throws the novel, or doesn’t allow us to get deep enough into the characters’ feelings. I, however, think that this change of narrator is essential with the subject of the book. The fact that it is all about how we deal with people who are different from us makes it necessary to understand not only the feelings of August, as being different, but also the feelings of those around him, with how the deal with all his differentness. I understand that the most important perspective is indeed August’s. However, in order to learn about empathy, children (who I am sure that this book is aimed at) need to understand how others react, and what the correct way is to react to those who are different from themselves.
Palacio manages to capture the voices of these characters well, so that it is entirely believable that I am reading the words of children. I am hoping that this, along with the short, easy to read chapters, will allow me to read this book with my students. In fact, I can imagine this book becoming part of the English syllabus in the near future. I certainly think it would be a good lesson for students today to learn a little about empathy.