May 16, 2017

I am mostly turned off by books that set out to teach the reader a lesson. On the other hand, books that set out to teach the lesson that misfit kids are valuable human beings with real feelings, hidden talents, and tremendous potential will always be welcome on my bookshelf. I’ve been trying to catch up on my middle grades reading, and the last two books I’ve finished fall into this precious genre.

Wonder, by R. J. Palacio, is a brilliant example of a genuine voice telling an original story with a powerful message about how appearances—no matter how startlingly unusual—can hide a deep well of inspiring character traits. Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, is probably a notch or two below Wonder in its storytelling finesse, but its message is equally important: kids with dyslexia or other learning differences face monsters every day that most of us only meet once in a while. They have courage—and a host of other super powers—to spare. Too often the world around them never stops to notice.

As a teacher myself, I also love that the book shows how a teacher, with just a tad more empathy and perceptiveness than average, can change a kid’s life. These books inspire me to try harder to reach every student I can. In this world, we can’t pass up any opportunity to shift the future toward something better, one kid at a time.