Wonder was written after parent Raquel Jaramillo’s (who wrote under the pen name R. J. Palacio) 3-year-old son started crying after seeing a girl with a facial deformity. The children’s novel follows August Pullman, who has a physical medical condition, as he transitions from homeschooling to a traditional classroom. Despite dealing with mean comments and stares from his classmates, August makes friends and even wins a school award.
Although it may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about mental wellness books for students, this New York Times bestseller inspired the “Choose Kind” movement. It’s also now a movie starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Jacob Tremblay.
Protagonist Finley Hart suffers from “blue days,” which readers may recognize as depression and anxiety caused by her stressful home life. Her parents are having problems, so she’s going to stay with her grandparents and cousins who she’s never met. Once she gets there, she realizes the made-up place she writes about in her notebook to express her sadness is real and exists in the woods behind her grandparents’ house. This discovery, and her attempt to save it, helps her find the strength to save herself.
Many students in middle school deal with overwhelming feelings they may struggle to articulate, and may find themselves connecting with Finley. Though these are tough subjects, author Claire Legrand uses compassion in presenting them, making this read a way for students to understand what they’re dealing with and begin to process their emotions.
The message here? Everyone struggles, and you’re not alone.
This collection of short stories written by preteens deals with a wide range of topics: everything from parents’ divorce to having your first major crush to struggling at school, whether it’s academically or socially. And if your students love it, there’s a whole series of these mental wellness books they can devour.