MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Best-selling author R.J. Palacio spoke and signed books at Words Bookstore on Thursday. Words owners Jonah and Ellen Zimiles welcomed Palacio, noting that her book Wonder sold more copies than any other book in the store’s five-year history. “We’re excited,” said Zimiles. “This is a thrill.”
His enthusiasm was matched by the zeal of the sell-out crowd, half adults and half children. Many arrived at the reading with numerous copies of the book, prepared to ask the author questions about Wonder. The book-signing event, noted Zimiles, sold out in three days.
The book, published in 2012, tells the story of middle school student Augie Pullman. Augie’s facial deformity and related health concerns hasn’t before allowed him to attend school, and Wonder tells the story of his first year in middle school.
The book, explains author Raquel Jaramillo, whose pen name pays tribute to her mother, grew from an experience she had six years ago.
“My sons and I were at an ice cream store,” she told the rapt audience. Palacio saw a young girl with a severe facial deformity and, fearing her sons’ reaction, she hurried her children away. “I felt badly the rest of the day,” explained Palacio. “I started writing that night.”
Palacio told the audience that she had always hoped to be a writer, crediting her mother with giving her a love of books. The enthusiastic audience of book lovers vied to ask questions about characters in the book. Palacio admitted that she is most like the character Charlotte, though she most admires Via.
“Via chooses kind, not just nice,” she explained. At the same time, Palacio peopled Augie’s world with supportive parents, funny teachers, and classmates who are nice at times and not-so-nice, as well.
The book may become a movie, said the author. It will not, however, be followed by a sequel. “I’m working on some of the others in Augie’s world,” said Palacio.
While the author signed books with advice to “Choose kind,” Michael Healey, Columbia High School Assistant Principal and magician, entertained the crowd with magic.
Words will donate copies of Wonder to the South Orange – Maplewood School District Parenting Center. In the spirit of “Choose kind,” those books will be distributed to children in the community as holiday gifts.