Ugly is in the Eye of the Beholder

Seems everybody knows about Wonder, the fabulous book about an amazing boy with deformities. The book I scouted is “A real life Wonder.” Entitled Ugly, it is the autobiography of Robert Hogue. Born with facial as well as some skeletal malformations, Robert’s family brings him home from the hospital and never looks back. His parents are supportive and concerned for him. They allow him to make risky choices, but are honest and deny permission when the costs to his safety are too high. His siblings treat him like just another brother. Robert makes a lasting friend when he begins elementary school. Things seem typical and, in fact, many facets of his life are similar to those of any boy growing up in Australia. Yet, many aspects of his life are anything but regular. Robert faces numerous perilous and painful surgeries.  Each procedure comes with the possibility of infection, complications and difficult recovery. Students are often brutal, to Robert, calling names and ridiculing him for his appearance. Even the remarks of some teachers are callose, considering him less worthy than his classmates, and, at times, even less than human.

Robert, however, is amazing, like Auggie. Even if people, circumstances, even his own body pulls him down, Robert rises above. He is a jokester who chooses to make others laugh rather than be laughed at. He faces each surgery with courage. He accomplishes his dream of competing  in sports by succeeding in lawn bowling.  In regard to classmates, Robert realizes that, “Each one had something different about them. I just had different differences.” He not only embraces his differences, but credits them for making him who he is today. Teachers and parents,  read aloud both Wonder and Ugly and you’ll have a unique opportunity to get students involved in meaningful discussion and writing: comparing written works of fiction and nonfiction on the same topic.

Written by Robert Hoge

Copyright 2015

Accelerated Reader Level 5.7

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Historical fiction so alive, you can almost feel its heartbeat!

This book, published in 2015, is incredibly well-written historical fiction that many of my students who read at a 4th or 5th grade level considered one of their favorite stories ever!  Set in WWII London, Ava, an eleven-year-old girl born with a club foot and her younger brother, Jaime, are in crisis. Their mother, a broken woman with a cruel streak, intends to save Jaime from the dangers of war by sending him north, leaving Ava, to whom she is physically and emotionally abusive, and herself behind. But Ava is determined, despite her disability, to accompany him. Once up north, the children are provided for by Susan, a woman who is standoffish, due to her own struggles.  Ada, who feels undeserving of love, finds comfort in a kinship with Butter, a horse. This story of strife and triumph is filled with depth through its well-crafted characters and highly dramatic events. It is a not-to-be-missed slice of historical fiction!

Written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, AR level 4.1, Newbery Honor Award.

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Not often is the sequel to a book equal to it’s predecessor, but this one is pretty close. In it, Ava’s foot surgery transforms her physically, but emotionally she still struggles to define her place in her surrogate family and reconcile her identity. With the war still raging, Susan, Jaime and Ava are forced to move to a small guest house with Lady Thorton, Maggie, her daughter, and Ruth, a bright Jewish girl from Germany.  In these tight quarters, tempers flare, fears are voiced and a tragedy affects them all. By book’s end, relationships are transformed, family is redefined and Ava finally wins her war within.

This book does contain a death from war. The AR level is 3.7, but the material is mature. Don’t let the lower level dissuade 5th or 6th grade readers from picking up this novel!

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