One of the best things we did last summer (and it cost $9.95)

A few days before we left for the Smoky Mountains last summer for vacation, I was feeling pretty good. I had packed the swimming stuff, planned car snacks, and even organized someone to get our newspaper. But then I realized what shouldn’t have been a surprise: we were driving fourteen hours with four kids in one mini-van.

Mild panic started to sink in. The A to Z billboard game will only satisfy for so long. We needed more entertainment to get us through this trip. After a quick call to my mom, I ordered the audiobook Wonder by R. J. Palacio, which she claimed was great for elementary age kids.

This book had our family hooked as we drove down I-24. Whenever we had to pause the book, our kids would repeatedly ask us to please turn it back on. They even limited their “How much longer?” questions to maybe once per hour.

It wasn’t entertainment for just the kids either. My husband and I were hooked too. There was one moment where I couldn’t tell if my husband was crying or laughing as we listened. He responded, “I’m not sure, maybe both!” I have ended up recommending it to many friends, even choosing it for my adult book club.


book coverWonder is about a boy named August (Auggie) Pullman who was born with a facial deformity that prevents him from going to mainstream school until 5th grade. The book follows Augie through his year in fifth grade. Part of what makes the book so captivating is that Palacio tells the story through different narrators: Augie himself, his sister, his best friend, his sister’s boyfriend, and others. That made it fun to listen to the book (rather than read it silently), because each narrator was voiced by a different person, making it feel even more alive.

Part of what made the book fun for our family was the content. The story had so many rich messages and discussion points:

  • How do we judge people by their physical appearances?
  • What does true friendship look like?
  • How do parents help or hinder their kid’s development when faced with challenges?
  • What defines success at school?

We didn’t capitalize on all of them by any means, but every now and then we would pause the book and talk about what had just happened. Other points percolated more slowly, giving us talking points throughout the year, even months after reading the book.

Another thing that made the book fun was that we all listened to it. We played it over the car’s audio system, so we all shared the experience. That added to the sense of it being a family vacation, and it helped us bond just a little bit more that week.

Although it was an afterthought, this book was for sure one of the most memorable parts of our 2015 vacation. It was a small way our family redeemed the hours flying down an interstate. Perhaps your family would like to read/listen to Wonder this summer, or pick another book to make part of your family’s summer vacation plans. It could be the best $9.95 you spend on vacation!

One Comment

  1. Landon said:

    We totally listened to the same audiobook on our way to WV last summer!

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