Blogger Elisabeth Gattullo Marrocolla

Book to Film: Wonder

Wonder was an instant hit when it was published in 2012. The book received starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publisher’s Weekly. On his blog 100 Scope Notes, Travis Jonker recently shared that his original review of the book is one of his top ten most read posts of all time. Only 18 months after it was published, Wonder hit one million books sold, an astronomical milestone for any book not named Harry Potter. We brought the book to area elementary schools on our annual booktalking visits in 2012 and since then have never had more than 1 copy checked in at any given time. It seems that each year, a new generation of kids discover the story of Auggie. With its enduring popularity (and having now reached over five million copies sold), it was inevitable that Hollywood would come knocking.

In adapting the beloved novel, it seems Hollywood got it right. The film Wonder currently has an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a stellar A+ Cinema Score (a rating given by audiences after seeing the film). Audiences seem to love the film, and critics were fairly effusive in their praise. Almost every positive review mentions that the premise seems schmaltzy, but that the filmmakers tread a careful line to keep the content moving and meaningful. Writing for New York magazine, David Edelstein said, “Wonder is the sort of movie that seasoned cynics dread, but the best-selling book and its sequels by R.J. Palacio are written in a matter-of-fact style (Auggie has largely come to terms with his face) that can make you cry by indirection.”

The adaptation is not without its controversy, however. Because the young actor playing Auggie does not have any cranial deformities in real life, critics have accused the film of being ableist. For a thorough look at the criticism, I suggest reading this recent School Library Journal article.

Even with the criticism, the movie has done extraordinarily well and is expected to contend come awards season. Have you seen an increase in holds request on Wonder since the release of the movie? We had to buy a dozen extra copies, and still have an incredibly robust holds list. I’ve also had to explain to more than one excited patron that a movie in theaters is not yet available to be checked out from the library, much to their disappointment!

2 comments

  1. Dave Dayanan

    I’ll definitely watch this movie it’s just to intriguing. Thanks for the post now I have a movie to watch to.

  2. Bryce

    I humbly submit to anyone reading this post that the marketing around the movie seeks to connect abled children with “Real Life Auggies”. Especially since they “couldn’t find” and actor with a facial difference to actually play Auggie (or more likely, wanted to make facial difference more palatable for the audience), this notion that kids with facial difference should tour around schools is very wrong. This was not mentioned in the SLJ article: http://www.rootedinrights.org/how-the-film-wonder-is-commercializing-facial-difference/

    Positive reviews are overwhelming not from people with facial differences, and the disability community as a whole is critical of this work. I would really love to see a library worker with a facial difference speak on this.

    None of this means that someone is a bad person for enjoying the film, but we must acknowledge how deeply steeped in the abled narrative this movie is, and that this is the reason it has such a high rating.

    Kim Sauder has more on why treating people with disabilities as opportunities to educate abled people is exhausting: https://crippledscholar.com/2017/08/12/okay-so-i-educated-1-nondisabled-person-only-6-billion-to-go/

    Thank you for considering.

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