Sequel to wonder book

Knopf had modest expectations for R.J. Palacio’s middle grade novel, “Wonder,” about a 10-year-old boy with a severe facial deformity. When they released the novel in February of 2012, they printed just 22,500 copies. Two years and 39 reprints later, the book has sold more than a million copies and spent 97 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. A film adaptation is in the works.

Now Knopf has acquired two “Wonder” spin-off books – a calendar book of precepts, and an ebook original that centers on the story’s villain – and the publisher is being more bullish about its forecast. This morning, Knopf Books for Young readers announced that “365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Brown’s Book of Precepts,” will have a hardcover first printing of 350,000 copies when it comes out this August. The book features inspirational quotes for every day of the year. Ms. Palacio asked fans of the book to submit their own precepts, and received more than 1,200 submissions in two weeks. She used 100 of them in the book, along with quotes from philosophers and historical figures like Anne Frank, Confucius and Nelson Mandela. The book also includes letters and emails from some of the novel’s characters: Auggie, Summer, Amos and Julian.

Catching Up with R.J. Palacio – and Raquel Jaramillo

Her dual identity may not be as closely guarded a secret as Batman/Bruce Wayne, nor is she as coy about it as Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket’s “representative.” But Workman editor-at-large Raquel Jaramillo, also known as Wonder author R.J. Palacio, still needs to finesse something of a costume change when she switches between roles.

“When I go to BEA I have two badges,” the author-editor said. “I turn my badge around: I’m R.J. Palacio on one side, and then when I go to the Workman booth and I’m there promoting my authors, I’m Raquel Jaramillo. It’s great – I like it because I feel like I know who I’m going to be.”

Next week, the Palacio persona will come to the fore, when Knopf releases the e-novella The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story on May 13. It follows the character who Palacio calls “the quote-unquote bully, whose point of view we never heard from in Wonder. He had a story to tell, but since Wonder was all about Auggie Pullman, I couldn’t find a way of getting Julian’s story into the book without his hijacking the narrative.”

Palacio and her publisher, Knopf, had explored the possibility of doing a sequel to Wonder, something the author said she’d resisted because she felt that the novel was a standalone book. But when the idea of doing an e-book came up, she said, “I thought this was an interesting way to tell Julian’s story. It turned out to be a really interesting exploration for me, because while I don’t want to justify or rationalize the character of Julian too much, I think it’s important to remember that everybody has a story. If we can understand bullies and even find a little compassion, even a little tenderness, we can figure out how to fix the problem from both sides.” The e-novella, she said, humanizes Julian in a way, so that readers understand him a bit better.

The character already has captured the attention of Palacio’s readership; she’s received emails and seen tweets in anticipation of the e-book’s release. And educators who teach Wonder in their classrooms, she said, are also intrigued by Julian’s perspective: one popular lesson-plan feature asks students to write from his point of view.

The Julian Chapter is the first component of what Palacio called “an expansion of the Wonder universe.” Next up, to be published on August 26, is 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts, which features inspirational quotes from the likes of Anne Frank, Confucius, and Nelson Mandela, as well as from more than 100 readers worldwide (out of a submission pool of more than 1,200 entries). Interspersed throughout, for each month, are updates on Wonder characters – narrators Auggie, Summer, and Jack, but also others, among them Julian.

With completion of The Julian Chapter and 365 Days, has Palacio done everything she wants to do with Wonder in the publishing sphere? “I think so,” she replied. “I wrote Wonder right after my older son finished fifth grade so it was really fresh in my mind, and a lot of the things he experienced went in there. A lot of the backstories were pulled directly from his life and the lives of the kids in his school.” That fifth grader is now 17, and a senior in high school. “So there is a part of me that wonders, maybe at some point I’ll be writing about Auggie in college,” she said. “I’m not crossing it off the possibility list. But right now I think I’m ready to move on.”

A Project Far, Far Away

Palacio’s next writing venture segues neatly if somewhat unexpectedly from Wonder. Her character Auggie is passionate about Star Wars, making frequent references throughout the book; and in April 2015, Disney-Lucasfilm Press will publish Palacio’s retelling of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. (Adam Gidwitz is reinterpreting The Empire Strikes Back for July 2015, and Tom Angleberger’s retelling of Return of the Jedi is out in October 2015, all leading up to the December 2015 release of the Episode VII film.)

“I was a big fan of the movies growing up,” Palacio said. “I remember where I was when I saw the first Star Wars, which came out when I was 13 years old. I remember the movie theater; I remember who I was with. I’m a total Star Wars fan.” In fact, the author added, when she speaks to kids about Wonder, even before she was hired to write A New Hope, she often likens Auggie’s journey to that of Luke Skywalker.

Palacio’s journey as a writer continues with the forthcoming Pony (formerly That Was the River), which Knopf acquired in a recent deal that included the Wonder companions and a second unrelated novel. Beyond the title and the age range – upper middle-grade, somewhat older than Wonder – she prefer not to discuss the book. “Frankly, what happens is things become trends before you’ve even written something,” she explained, continuing with a somewhat playful example. “If people knew then what they know now about writing about a boy with cranial-facial differences, suddenly the spring list would be full of kids with cranial-facial differences. Suddenly it’s hot. It’s the new vampire.”

Return of the Editor

Though Wonder was written under the name R.J. Palacio, it inevitably changed Raquel Jaramillo’s life, too. She stepped down from her position as director of children’s publishing at Workman last October, and, after a three-month hiatus, returned in February as editor-at-large. She’s in the office “a couple of days a week,” she said, and is about to launch a line of – sensing a theme here? – Star Wars Workbooks, a dozen titles covering reading, writing, and math at various grade levels (“That kept me busy last year,” she said).

Other current Workman projects for the editor include the first two titles in a new board-book series by Barney Saltzberg, Redbird: Colors, Colors, Everywhere and Redbird: Big, Small, Round, and Tall, due out in March 2015. And in June 2015, Cabinets of Curiosity by Gordon Grice “is going to do for natural history what Go! did for graphic design,” she said. “It’s an explanation of what science is, and what evolution is.”

As Jaramillo’s editorial responsibilities evolve, Palacio’s writerly responsibilities continue. She will travel to Wisconsin on May 20–21 as part of the Fox Cities Reads, program – each year, the region’s public libraries select an author and title and encourage the community to read together; the 2014 pick was Wonder. She also has a number of local engagements in June. “I asked for a little bit of time off for the fall, because I will be going on a book tour for 365 Days of Wonder in October,” she said. “That will be an extensive tour, so I really have to limit how many speaking engagements I can do at schools.”

And there are her own kids to consider – in addition to her 17-year-old, she has a 10-year-old son in fourth grade. “ He’s not quite old enough to be independent yet,” she pointed out. As for her older son, “It’s been a really intense year because seniors in high school have a lot of events leading up to graduation, events that you don’t want to miss as a parent. It’s been tricky trying to finagle speaking engagements having to do with Wonder, making sure that I’m around for my kids and the school year, and also finding time to write these books. Those three months that I took off from Workman were fantastic – I really got to do a lot. But now that I’m back, even if it’s in a part-time capacity, it really is a question of carving out the time and making sure I delegate myself.”

Does that mean Jaramillo – or perhaps Palacio – is a tough boss? Her laugh said it all: “Actually I should be tougher on myself. No, I’m not.”

What To Read After… Wonder

Published on: 18 December 2017 Author: Emily Drabble

Wonder by RJ Palacio has been a bonafide hit, sparking spin-off books and even a movie starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. But if you loved it, what should you read next? We have some ideas… and you gave us some great recommendations too!

RJ Palacio’s groundbreaking debut Wonder was published just five years ago, but it has swiftly become a beloved modern day classic. Now it’s a film starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson – not to mention the fact that it’s one of BookTrust’s Bookbuzz reads this year – Wonder is bound to win over many more fans. But what can fill the place Auggie Pullman takes up in your life and heart when you’ve finished reading it?

Fans of Wonder will be after a book that will sweep them up, where they can feel an all-engrossing, burning empathy for the characters – and they’re probably looking for something written in first person, as Wonder is. They might be after another thoughtful book, a serious book to make them think, and one where the characters become part of their lives – even change their lives.

‘Serious’ books for this age group – without romance or teen themes – can feel surprisingly thin on the ground, with many books tending towards the funny or fart-obsessed fare that many children love, but others may find too flippant. So here are some of our suggestions…

For the serious souls: Dreaming the Bear by Mimi Thebo is totally different in its themes to Wonder but provides a similar emotional intensity. Meanwhile, for something funny but serious, Jack Cheng’s See You In the Cosmos is told through recordings 11-year-old Alex makes on his iPod, so readers get direct access to his fears, passions, big questions and emotional intensity.

For those after a new hero to root for: Try Morris Gleitzman’s Once, followed by Then, Now, and finally After. The main character Felix experiences acts of inhumanity in the second world war, but also acts of kindness. And despite everything he remains full of courage and hope; it’s truly a beautiful series.

For stories exploring the importance of kindness: Seek out and savour Louis Sachar, particularly Holes (revel in the big heart of Stanley Yelnats!), and The Boy Who Lost His Face.

Meanwhile, Amy McKay, school librarian of the year 2016, has a recommendation for younger teens – We Are all Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen:

‘It’s full of charm and highlights the importance of celebrating and supporting difference. ‘Stewart reminds me a lot of Auggie; his perspective on the world and the positive effect he has on those who embrace him make them very similar. It deals with quite difficult issues, but with a fairly gentle touch and I find it the perfect book to recommend to Year 7s and 8s who have loved Wonder. Like Wonder, I honestly believe that upon finishing We Are All Made of Molecules the reader is a slightly changed and better person.’

Or you could always go for the classic, ultimate ‘climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it’ teen read: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

When only more from R.J. Palacio will do…

RJ Palacio has written two companion books: 365 Days of Wonder and three short stories in Auggie And Me. And for younger readers, there’s a new brilliant picture book to introduce them to Auggie – We’re All Wonders.

Your suggestions

Once again, you came up with lots of brilliant ideas about what to try next and sent them to us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #WhatToReadAfter. Here are some of your fantastic recommendations:

Freak The Mighty

Freak The Mighty by Rodman Philbrick was a popular suggestion, with @Jake_Hope saying the ‘brilliant’ book is ‘a fantastic, moving, and incredibly life-affirming story that is likely to stay with readers for a lifetime!’ He was joined by @LizScottPR, who described it as ‘an absolute favourite’. Sounds like it’s definitely one for Wonder readers to investigate…

Read our review of Freak The Mighty

Jo Cotterill’s books

Jo Cotterill’s stories were also well-loved on Twitter, with @bookloverJo suggesting them and @fionamsharp describing A Library of Lemons and Looking at the Stars as “lovely books”.

One by Sarah Crossan

This Carnegie Medal-winning novel about conjoined twins – told in verse – was another book to get a lot of love. It’s ‘another moving book about disability, and how teenagers overcome the challenges’, explained @BarnetLibraries, while @agnesguyonhall said it would ‘fit the bill perfectly’ for Wonder fans (‘And it’s such a wonderful book!’)

Read our review of One

More of your brilliant recommendations

You came up with lots of other brilliant ideas of books to read after Wonder, like these:

  • Brilliant author Susin Nielsen got involved, suggesting Lisa Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal. ‘It’s a bit older than Wonder but so beautiful and riveting.’
  • @GordonAskew was bigging up Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy by the ‘incomparable’ Anne Ursu (‘preferably both’), explaining that they are ‘fantasy metaphor for very real issues’.
  • ‘Brilliant book’ – that was @susankmann’s verdict on The Nowhere Emporium by Ross Mackenzie.
  • @Davidmarsh80 suggested readers try Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper and Rules by Cynthia Lord, while @Oathall_LRC bigged up Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl and The One And Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.
  • The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson and MG Leonard’s Beetle Boy were @debtex’s choices: ‘Both heartwarming, inspiring, and it’s okay to be different!’
  • A few great ideas came from @bookloverJo, who proposed Swimming To The Moon by Jane Elson, All The Things That Could Go Wrong by Stewart Foster, and the ‘wonderfully empathetic’ Do You Speak Chocolate? by Cas Lester.
  • @Christs_Library kept it simple when recommending Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Island at the End of Everything (‘It is just fantastic’), while @librarymice offered up Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and My Brother Simple by Marie-Aude Murail.
  • Rob Buyea’s Because of Mr Terupt and their sequels got a lot of love from @skippity_doo: ‘Same structure – each chapter is narrated by a different child in the class. And similar themes (bullying/kindness/friendship).’
  • @LLummiss suggested Ugly by Robert Hoge and the book’s illustrator @RobinsonKH was (perhaps unsurprisingly) on board. ‘Described as a “real life Wonder” Robert’s memoir is a funny, honest and poignant account of overcoming bullying and thriving with disabilities,’ he said. ‘It’s about growing up different, but also about growing up, which all kids will relate to.’

Well, that should keep you going for a while! Stay tuned for more from What To Read After… and if there any books you’re hooked on that you want recommendations for, let us know using the hashtag #WhatToReadAfter on Twitter.