Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Virtual Book Club: Wonder January 3, 2014

Thanks to everyone who joined us for our first young adult novel discussion. This month we’re talking about Wonder by R. J. Palacio, which I introduced here.

 

Here’s how it works: I’ll throw out a few topics for discussion, and you can write your responses about these topics (or others you’d like to discuss) in the comment section.

 wonder1

Discussion #1: The Best and the Worst in People

In this novel, Augie goes through a more extreme version of what everyone experiences at some point—the agony of being different, the fear of not being accepted, the pain of being excluded. Middle school is a crucible that brings out the best and worst in people, and this is even more obvious with someone like Augie, who has a significant physical deformity.

 

We see the pain inflicted by Augie’s classmates who bully him and actively avoid him (claiming he has “the plague”), and we also see the pain inflicted in more passive ways by peers who aren’t mean to him but don’t stand up for him either. But on the flip side, we also see the good in humanity, such as when Jack forfeits his popularity to be Augie’s friend and when Summer sits at his lunch table even though it meant the popular kid wouldn’t go out with her.

 

When you were a kid, where did you fit in the social pecking order? Were you a leader, someone who went with the crowd, or someone who marched to your own drum? How can we encourage kids to stand up for what’s right, even when it’s not popular?

 

Discussion #2: Everyone Has a Story

I enjoyed hearing the different perspectives on the same story—it was a good reminder that everyone has a story to tell. (Although it did get tedious at times when the content overlapped from one person’s story to the next.) Via, the dutiful big sister, is often overshadowed by everything that’s happening to Augie, but when we hear her story, we realize that she’s dealing with challenges of her own too. And while we may be tempted to judge Miranda at first, after we hear her side, we discover that she’s been struggling with her parents’ divorce.

 

Did you like the multiple viewpoints format? Did you have a favorite character?

 

Discussion #3: Loving without Overprotecting

I liked the way the relationships were portrayed in Augie’s family. His parents seemed believable—imperfect but full of love. I imagine that every parent or teacher feels the struggle they felt when they sent Augie off to middle school “like a lamb to the slaughter.” How do you protect your child and still prepare him/her for the real world? How do you know when to let go and allow him fall sometimes?

 

Do you think you would have sent your child to school, as Augie’s parents did? What would you have handled differently?

 

Discussion #4: The Ending

I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting for the ending of this book, but I was a little disappointed. It seems like Augie’s award at graduation was supposed to be the climactic moment, but rang somewhat hollow to me. His whole life, Augie has wanted to be a regular kid, like everyone else. He doesn’t want to be different or special or pitied or coddled by adults, so having the principal select him for the award didn’t seem like an apt conclusion. Maybe it would have been more satisfying if the award had been voted on by all his peers—it would have shown how much had changed over the course of the year.

 

What did you think of the ending? If you were writing an alternate ending, what would happen in your version? What do you think will happen to Augie next year?

 

Rating:

I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was a little slow at times, and I wanted to skim past some of the tedious fifth grade interactions. But then again, maybe that’s because I’m not the target audience. This book will spark good conversations—for adults and kids alike—and it rings true as a study of the human condition.

 4 stars

 

How many stars would you give this book?

 

{Remember: there will be a free book giveaway for one lucky commenter!}

 

 

Dad’s Treasure Box June 15, 2012

Filed under: Family — Stephanie Rische @ 8:17 am
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My siblings and I joke that there’s only one thing we want to make sure Dad leaves to us in his will: his treasure box. Now treasure is a bit of a relative term here, as there’s nothing of monetary value in it. From the rare, coveted glimpses I’ve gotten inside the ratty cardboard box, I’ve gathered that it contains things like special rocks Dad collected as a boy, pennies flattened on railroad tracks, a few of his favorite comic books, and typewritten pages of short stories he wrote for his college class.

 

As I read the book of Proverbs, I keep thinking of all Solomon had to pass down to his children. It was quite a legacy, really: unprecedented wealth, a world-renown reputation, and an entire kingdom to leave behind as an inheritance (2 Chronicles 9). Yet throughout Proverbs, it’s obvious he was concerned about leaving only one legacy behind for future generations: a legacy of wisdom.

 

My child, listen when your father corrects you.
Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.
What you learn from them will crown you with grace
and be a chain of honor around your neck.
—Proverbs 1:9-10

 

Fortunately for me, both my dad and my mom have the wisdom of Solomon. They, too, have left me a legacy of wise instructions—proverbs of their own that still echo in my head after all these years:

 

Follow through.
Be smart.
Put yourself in their shoes.
Practice, practice, practice.
Write your thank-you notes.
People are more important than things.
Don’t get a big head.
Sleep on it.
Pray about it.
Check your tires.

 

Thank you, Dad and Mom, for those pearls of wisdom. They are indeed a “crown of grace” for my brother and sister and me—better than any legacy of wealth, fame, or inheritance you could leave behind for us.

 

But Dad, can I have your treasure box anyway?

 

Question: What is one pearl of wisdom your parents passed on to you?

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.