What to read if you loved Wonder

Published to acclaim in 2012 and boosted by a recent movie adaptation, R.J. Palacio’s middle fiction novel, Wonder, has been much-loved by readers for several years now.

I’ve lost count of the numbers of parents or kids who’ve told me they love Palacio’s multi-perspective story of Auggie March’s first year at a mainstream school. Born with a crano-facial difference, Auggie is stoic and good-humoured about the surgery he’s had to endure and the effect his appearance has on people who don’t know him. Yet he’s also understandably scared about his new school, and hurt when others are insensitive and cruel.

Navigating fifth grade is a minefield of tentative friendships, bullies, well-meaning teachers, jokes, overwhelming emotions, family tensions and a school camp. The multi-narrator structure means we get to hear and consider many sides to the story, and realise that every character has struggles, worries and fears of their own.

It’s a great book for so many different reasons, and that makes it hard to recommend what to read next. We’ve wracked our brains though, and here are our best recommendations of what to read if you loved Wonder. All of our picks are suitable for readers aged 9 to 13 years.

You like reading about kids overcoming significant challenges…


  • The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson – Matthew has to conquer his worst fears in order to leave his house and investigate a neighbourhood crime.
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper – Narrator Melody is smart and observant, yet when she starts attending general classes at her school, her capabilities are constantly underestimated due to the limitations caused by her cerebral palsy.
  • The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley – Ada and her brother are evacuated from London to the country during World War II, and Ada, who has a clubfoot, discovers new freedoms and happiness away from her abusive mother.
  • See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng – Space-obsessed Alex embarks on a road trip and ends up making a series of discoveries about his family and the complexities of adult life.
  • The Other Side of Summer by Emily Gale – In the wake of a family tragedy, Summer has to contend with a huge move from London to Melbourne, and a mysterious new friend.
  • Bigfoot, Tobin and Me by Melissa Savage – After her mother’s death, grieving and angry Lemonade is uprooted to live with her grandfather in rural Willow Creek, where she is dragged into the hunt for Bigfoot by Tobin, a boy with problems of his own.

You like stories told from more than one perspective…


  • Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan – 12-year-old genius Willow has just lost her adoptive parents in a car accident, and must find a new sense of family and community. This novel uses Willow’s inimitable first-person voice, interspersed with third-person sections narrated by the people she encounters and affects.
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick – The stories of two young people converge in New York City in this beautiful amalgamation of words and pictures. One feature a runaway boy in the 1970s, told in prose, and the other is about a lonely deaf girl in the 1920s, shown in black-and-white illustrations.
  • The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) by Rick Riordan – Brother and sister Carter and Sadie take turns in narrating this explosive Egyptian-god-powered fantasy adventure, a device that generates some enjoyable sibling rivalry moments and squabbles, and charts their growing understanding of each other.
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz – Taking its structure from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, thirteen medieval villagers take turns to tell wild (and potentially unreliable) stories about three children who may or may not be saints.
  • Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead – The changing friendship of three seventh graders goes under the microscope in this beguiling book that weaves together the third-person perspective of main character Bridget, letters written by classmate Sherm and a mysterious second person narrator. (This pick is for ages 11 and up.)
  • Pax by Sarah Pennypacker – Peter has been forced to return his pet fox Pax to the wild during wartime, but as it turns out, neither can endure the separation. This gripping coming-of-age tale is told in the third-person, alternating between Peter and Pax’s perspectives.

You like books that explore the ups and downs of friendships…


  • The Secrets We Keep by Nova Weetman – When Clem starts at a new school close to the end of Grade Six, just one of her many recent changes in her life, she builds a new friendship that’s based on a stressful lie.
  • The Song From Somewhere Else – Frank escapes from bullies and forms an uneasy friendship of necessity with odd Nick, only to be drawn into a strange and otherworldly secret at the heart of Nick’s home.
  • George by Alex Gino – George (or Melissa, as she prefers to be called) and her unwavering best friend Kelly concoct a plan for Melissa to perform as Charlotte in her class’s production of Charlotte’s Web, and to be seen and accepted by her mum and others as a girl.
  • Raymie Nightingale – Raymie has a desperate plan to win back the attentions of her father by winning a pageant, but instead finds herself forging true and deep friendships with two of her rivals.
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham – This sweet and relatable graphic novel tells the real-life story of author Shannon Hale, and explores the complicated task of navigating school friendship groups.

You want to laugh at how complicated life can get as a tween…


  • My Life As an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg – Candace is staunchly individual and tries hard to fix the lives of everyone around her, with some unpredictable, touching and very funny results – or in some cases, disasters…
  • All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson – Homeschooled Imogen leaves the familiar surrounds of the Renaissance Faire her parents work for, and heads to public school for the first time. This funny graphic novel explores how to be brave, kind and honourable.
  • Spurt by Chris Miles – Late-bloomer Jack is terrified his friends are going to leave him in the dust as they rocket towards puberty in this hilarious and irreverent school caper. (This pick is for ages 11 and up.)

You’re interested in reading inspirational real-life stories…


  • Ugly by Robert Hoge – Robert Hoge was born with a facial tumour and legs that had not formed correctly, conditions that required countless surgeries. This young reader’s edition of his memoir covers his childhood through to teen years with refreshing humour, creating a great road map for self acceptance and finding places to belong.
  • Sister Heart by Sally Morgan – A heartbreaking verse novel that follows a young girl as she is taken from her family and home in northern Australia, and sent to a children’s home in the south. ‘Annie’ finds solace on her friendship with Jane, but her safety and happiness as one of the Stolen Generation is always precarious.
  • Hope in a Ballet Shoe by Michaela DePrince – Acclaimed ballerina Michaela DePrince recounts her incredible life story from civil war in Sierra Leone to the competitive world of ballet in the United States.
  • I Can Jump Puddles – This vivid childhood memoir details Alan Marshall’s early years, including his contraction of polio and the after-effects, and rural Australian life in the early twentieth century.
  • Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah – Adeline Yen Mah’s autobiography recounts a difficult childhood caused by her mother’s death and father’s remarriage, war breaking out in China, and several changes of school. Mah’s striving, resilience and successful beginnings as a young writer prove incredibly inspiring.
  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai – The children’s edition of Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography details her passionate activism in her native Pakistan, her belief in the education of girls, and the terrible consequences of her beliefs when she is targeted by the Taliban. Young readers will find the passion and bravery she exhibited at such a young age riveting.

For even more recommendations on what to read next, you might like to look at middle fiction that tackles serious topics, great reads for tweens becoming teens or children’s books that teach empathy.

Leanne Hall is a children’s and YA specialist at Readings Kid and the grants officer for the Readings Foundation. She also writes books for children and young adults.



R J Palacio

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