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its a great book ,i really enjoy this book.
23 July 2016 (05:59)
Great Book, have read it multiple times.
11 November 2019 (17:31)
How can I start to read after downloading the book
09 April 2020 (07:33)
Really inspired me to be more considerate
12 August 2020 (14:28)
Beautiful book, I highly recommend it!
25 September 2020 (23:33)
it's a really good story！through reading this book，i can deeply feel the warm and the kindness between them. When we are in trouble, we should choose kindness
27 September 2020 (05:30)
Just choose kind. I love it.
27 December 2020 (15:14)
i love this book i watched the movie in 3rd grade and my teacher read the book this book is a really good book
08 January 2021 (17:17)
it is hard being kind but books like these, they don't make it easier exactly but they do make us stronger; the strength to reach out to others and keep reaching.
i would say this book's magical but it's more than that because it is here, written by a real person. waiting to be read.
i would say this book's magical but it's more than that because it is here, written by a real person. waiting to be read.
20 January 2021 (12:36)
It’s a great book but you can’t download it
08 February 2021 (20:17)
write a review. (it said my review was too short)
12 April 2021 (22:54)
12 April 2021 (23:37)
hey Shoto I Say NO i hate you and always hated you I will kill you and btw shoto ur face lol
20 April 2021 (23:01)
BRO I HATE HOW MEAN JULIAN IS but in the end he’s nicer
18 May 2021 (03:13)
It has wonders ? in everypage! As a person who suffers from many skin diseases that change how I look....
This really inspired me ❤️❤️
This really inspired me ❤️❤️
13 June 2021 (20:15)
THIS IS A BORZOI BOOK PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Text copyright © 2012 by R. J. Palacio Jacket art copyright © 2012 by Tad Carpenter All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc. Permissions can be found on this page. Visit us on the Web! randomhouse.com/kids Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at randomhouse.com/teachers Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Palacio, R. J. Wonder / by R.J. Palacio. p. cm. Summary: Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman, who was born with extreme facial abnormalities and was not expected to survive, goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan, which entails enduring the taunting and fear of his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student. eISBN: 978-0-375-89988-1 [1. Abnormalities, Human—Fiction. 2. Self-importance—Fiction. 3. Middle schools—Fiction. 4. Schools—Fiction.] I. Title. PZ7.P17526Wo 2012 [Fic]—dc23 2011027133 February 2012 Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read. v3.1 For Russell, Caleb, and Joseph Contents Cover Title Page Copyright Dedication Epigraph Part One: August Ordinary Why I Didn’t Go to School How I Came to Life Christopher’s House Driving Paging Mr. Tushman Nice Mrs. Garcia Jack Will, Julian, and Charlotte The Grand Tour The Performance Space The Deal Home First-Day Jitters Locks Around the Room Lamb to the Slaughter Choose Kind Lunch The Summer Table One to Ten Padawan Wake Me Up when September Ends J; ack Will Mr. Browne’s October Precept Apples Halloween School Pictures The Cheese Touch Costumes The Bleeding Scream Names Part Two: Via A Tour of the Galaxy Before August Seeing August August Through the Peephole High School Major Tom After School The Padawan Bites the Dust An Apparition at the Door Breakfast Genetics 101 The Punnett Square Out with the Old October 31 Trick or Treat Time to Think Part Three: Summer Weird Kids The Plague The Halloween Party November Warning: This Kid Is Rated R The Egyptian Tomb Part Four: Jack The Call Carvel Why I Changed My Mind Four Things Ex-Friends Snow Fortune Favors the Bold Private School In Science Partners Detention Season’s Greetings Letters, Emails, Facebook, Texts Back from Winter Break The War Switching Tables Why I Didn’t Sit with August the First Day of School Sides August’s House The Boyfriend Part Five: Justin Olivia’s Brother Valentine’s Day Our Town Ladybug The Bus Stop Rehearsal Bird The Universe Part Six: August North Pole The Auggie Doll Lobot Hearing Brightly Via’s Secret My Cave Goodbye Daisy’s Toys Heaven Understudy The Ending Part Seven: Miranda Camp Lies School What I Miss Most Extraordinary, but No One There to See The Performance After the Show Part Eight: August The Fifth-Grade Nature Retreat Known For Packing Daybreak Day One The Fairgrounds Be Kind to Nature The Woods Are Alive Alien Voices in the Dark The Emperor’s Guard Sleep Aftermath Home Bear The Shift Ducks The Last Precept The Drop-Off Take Your Seats, Everyone A Simple Thing Awards Floating Pictures The Walk Home Appendix Acknowledgments Permissions Doctors have come from distant cities just to see me stand over my bed disbelieving what they’re seeing They say I must be one of the wonders of god’s own creation and as far as they can see they can offer no explanation —NATALIE MERCHANT, “Wonder” Fate smiled and destiny laughed as she came to my cradle … —Natalie Merchant, “Wonder” Ordinary I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go. If I found a magic lamp and I could have one wish, I would wish that I had a normal face that no one ever noticed at all. I would wish that I could walk down the street without people seeing me and then doing that look-away thing. Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way. But I’m kind of used to how I look by now. I know how to pretend I don’t see the faces people make. We’ve all gotten pretty good at that sort of thing: me, Mom and Dad, Via. Actually, I take that back: Via’s not so good at it. She can get really annoyed when people do something rude. Like, for instance, one time in the playground some older kids made some noises. I don’t even know what the noises were exactly because I didn’t hear them myself, but Via heard and she just started yelling at the kids. That’s the way she is. I’m not that way. Via doesn’t see me as ordinary. She says she does, but if I were ordinary, she wouldn’t feel like she needs to protect me as much. And Mom and Dad don’t see me as ordinary, either. They see me as extraordinary. I think the only person in the world who realizes how ordinary I am is me. My name is August, by the way. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. Why I Didn’t Go to School Next week I start fifth grade. Since I’ve never been to a real school before, I am pretty much totally and completely petrified. People think I haven’t gone to school because of the way I look, but it’s not that. It’s because of all the surgeries I’ve had. Twenty-seven since I was born. The bigger ones happened before I was even four years old, so I don’t remember those. But I’ve had two or three surgeries every year since then (some big, some small), and because I’m little for my age, and I have some other medical mysteries that doctors never really figured out, I used to get sick a lot. That’s why my parents decided it was better if I didn’t go to school. I’m much stronger now, though. The last surgery I had was eight months ago, and I probably won’t have to have any more for another couple of years. Mom homeschools me. She used to be a children’s-book illustrator. She draws really great fairies and mermaids. Her boy stuff isn’t so hot, though. She once tried to draw me a Darth Vader, but it ended up looking like some weird mushroom-shaped robot. I haven’t seen her draw anything in a long time. I think she’s too busy taking care of me and Via. I can’t say I always wanted to go to school because that wouldn’t be exactly true. What I wanted was to go to school, but only if I could be like every other kid going to school. Have lots of friends and hang out after school and stuff like that. I have a few really good friends now. Christopher is my best friend, followed by Zachary and Alex. We’ve known each other since we were babies. And since they’ve always known me the way I am, they’re used to me. When we were little, we used to have playdates all the time, but then Christopher moved to Bridgeport in Connecticut. That’s more than an hour away from where I live in North River Heights, which is at the top tip of Manhattan. And Zachary and Alex started going to school. It’s funny: even though Christopher’s the one who moved far away, I still see him more than I see Zachary and Alex. They have all these new friends now. If we bump into each other on the street, they’re still nice to me, though. They always say hello. I have other friends, too, but not as good as Christopher and Zack and Alex were. For instance, Zack and Alex always invited me to their birthday parties when we were little, but Joel and Eamonn and Gabe never did. Emma invited me once, but I haven’t seen her in a long time. And, of course, I always go to Christopher’s birthday. Maybe I’m making too big a deal about birthday parties. How I Came to Life I like when Mom tells this story because it makes me laugh so much. It’s not funny in the way a joke is funny, but when Mom tells it, Via and I just start cracking up. So when I was in my mom’s stomach, no one had any idea I would come out looking the way I look. Mom had had Via four years before, and that had been such a “walk in the park” (Mom’s expression) that there was no reason to run any special tests. About two months before I was born, the doctors realized there was something wrong with my face, but they didn’t think it was going to be bad. They told Mom and Dad I had a cleft palate and some other stuff going on. They called it “small anomalies.” There were two nurses in the delivery room the night I was born. One was very nice and sweet. The other one, Mom said, did not seem at all nice or sweet. She had very big arms and (here comes the funny part), she kept farting. Like, she’d bring Mom some ice chips, and then fart. She’d check Mom’s blood pressure, and fart. Mom says it was unbelievable because the nurse never even said excuse me! Meanwhile, Mom’s regular doctor wasn’t on duty that night, so Mom got stuck with this cranky kid doctor she and Dad nicknamed Doogie after some old TV show or something (they didn’t actually call him that to his face). But Mom says that even though everyone in the room was kind of grumpy, Dad kept making her laugh all night long. When I came out of Mom’s stomach, she said the whole room got very quiet. Mom didn’t even get a chance to look at me because the nice nurse immediately rushed me out of the room. Dad was in such a hurry to follow her that he dropped the video camera, which broke into a million pieces. And then Mom got very upset and tried to get out of bed to see where they were going, but the farting nurse put her very big arms on Mom to keep her down in the bed. They were practically fighting, because Mom was hysterical and the farting nurse was yelling at her to stay calm, and then they both started screaming for the doctor. But guess what? He had fainted! Right on the floor! So when the farting nurse saw that he had fainted, she started pushing him with her foot to get him to wake up, yelling at him the whole time: “What kind of doctor are you? What kind of doctor are you? Get up! Get up!” And then all of a sudden she let out the biggest, loudest, smelliest fart in the history of farts. Mom thinks it was actually the fart that finally woke the doctor up. Anyway, when Mom tells this story, she acts out all the parts—including the farting noises—and it is so, so, so, so funny! Mom says the farting nurse turned out to be a very nice woman. She stayed with Mom the whole time. Didn’t leave her side even after Dad came back and the doctors told them how sick I was. Mom remembers exactly what the nurse whispered in her ear when the doctor told her I probably wouldn’t live through the night: “Everyone born of God overcometh the world.” And the next day, after I had lived through the night, it was that nurse who held Mom’s hand when they brought her to meet me for the first time. Mom says by then they had told her all about me. She had been preparing herself for the seeing of me. But she says that when she looked down into my tiny mushed-up face for the first time, all she could see was how pretty my eyes were. Mom is beautiful, by the way. And Dad is handsome. Via is pretty. In case you were wondering. Christopher’s House I was really bummed when Christopher moved away three years ago. We were both around seven then. We used to spend hours playing with our Star Wars action figures and dueling with our lightsabers. I miss that. Last spring we drove over to Christopher’s house in Bridgeport. Me and Christopher were looking for snacks in the kitchen, and I heard Mom talking to Lisa, Christopher’s mom, about my going to school in the fall. I had never, ever heard her mention school before. “What are you talking about?” I said. Mom looked surprised, like she hadn’t meant for me to hear that. “You should tell him what you’ve been thinking, Isabel,” Dad said. He was on the other side of the living room talking to Christopher’s dad. “We should talk about this later,” said Mom. “No, I want to know what you were talking about,” I answered. “Don’t you think you’re ready for school, Auggie?” Mom said. “No,” I said. “I don’t, either,” said Dad. “Then that’s it, case closed,” I said, shrugging, and I sat in her lap like I was a baby. “I just think you need to learn more than I can teach you,” Mom said. “I mean, come on, Auggie, you know how bad I am at fractions!” “What school?” I said. I already felt like crying. “Beecher Prep. Right by us.” “Wow, that’s a great school, Auggie,” said Lisa, patting my knee. “Why not Via’s school?” I said. “That’s too big,” Mom answered. “I don’t think that would be a good fit for you.” “I don’t want to,” I said. I admit: I made my voice sound a little babyish. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” Dad said, coming over and lifting me out of Mom’s lap. He carried me over to sit on his lap on the other side of the sofa. “We won’t make you do anything you don’t want to do.” “But it would be good for him, Nate,” Mom said. “Not if he doesn’t want to,” answered Dad, looking at me. “Not if he’s not ready.” I saw Mom look at Lisa, who reached over and squeezed her hand. “You guys will figure it out,” she said to Mom. “You always have.” “Let’s just talk about it later,” said Mom. I could tell she and Dad were going to get in a fight about it. I wanted Dad to win the fight. Though a part of me knew Mom was right. And the truth is, she really was terrible at fractions. Driving It was a long drive home. I fell asleep in the backseat like I always do, my head on Via’s lap like she was my pillow, a towel wrapped around the seat belt so I wouldn’t drool all over her. Via fell asleep, too, and Mom and Dad talked quietly about grown-up things I didn’t care about. I don’t know how long I was sleeping, but when I woke up, there was a full moon outside the car window. It was a purple night, and we were driving on a highway full of cars. And then I heard Mom and Dad talking about me. “We can’t keep protecting him,” Mom whispered to Dad, who was driving. “We can’t just pretend he’s going to wake up tomorrow and this isn’t going to be his reality, because it is, Nate, and we have to help him learn to deal with it. We can’t just keep avoiding situations that …” “So sending him off to middle school like a lamb to the slaughter …,” Dad answered angrily, but he didn’t even finish his sentence because he saw me in the mirror looking up. “What’s a lamb to the slaughter?” I asked sleepily. “Go back to sleep, Auggie,” Dad said softly. “Everyone will stare at me at school,” I said, suddenly crying. “Honey,” Mom said. She turned around in the front seat and put her hand on my hand. “You know if you don’t want to do this, you don’t have to. But we spoke to the principal there and told him about you and he really wants to meet you.” “What did you tell him about me?” “How funny you are, and how kind and smart. When I told him you read Dragon Rider when you were six, he was like, ‘Wow, I have to meet this kid.’ ” “Did you tell him anything else?” I said. Mom smiled at me. Her smile kind of hugged me. “I told him about all your surgeries, and how brave you are,” she said. “So he knows what I look like?” I asked. “Well, we brought pictures from last summer in Montauk,” Dad said. “We showed him pictures of the whole family. And that great shot of you holding that flounder on the boat!” “You were there, too?” I have to admit I felt a little disappointed that he was a part of this. “We both talked to him, yes,” Dad said. “He’s a really nice man.” “You would like him,” Mom added. Suddenly it felt like they were on the same side. “Wait, so when did you meet him?” I said. “He took us on a tour of the school last year,” said Mom. “Last year?” I said. “So you’ve been thinking about this for a whole year and you didn’t tell me?” “We didn’t know if you’d even get in, Auggie,” answered Mom. “It’s a very hard school to get into. There’s a whole admissions process. I didn’t see the point in telling you and having you get all worked up about it unnecessarily.” “But you’re right, Auggie, we should’ve told you when we found out last month that you got in,” said Dad. “In hindsight,” sighed Mom, “yes, I guess.” “Did that lady who came to the house that time have something to do with this?” I said. “The one that gave me that test?” “Yes, actually,” said Mom, looking guilty. “Yes.” “You told me it was an IQ test,” I said. “I know, well, that was a white lie,” she answered. “It was a test you needed to take to get into the school. You did very well on it, by the way.” “So you lied,” I said. “A white lie, but yes. Sorry,” she said, trying to smile, but when I didn’t smile back, she turned around in her seat and faced forward. “What’s a lamb to the slaughter?” I said. Mom sighed and gave Daddy a “look.” “I shouldn’t have said that,” Dad said, looking at me in the rearview mirror. “It’s not true. Here’s the thing: Mommy and I love you so much we want to protect you any way we can. It’s just sometimes we want to do it in different ways.” “I don’t want to go to school,” I answered, folding my arms. “It would be good for you, Auggie,” said Mom. “Maybe I’ll go next year,” I answered, looking out the window. “This year would be better, Auggie,” said Mom. “You know why? Because you’ll be going into fifth grade, and that’s the first year of middle school—for everyone. You won’t be the only new kid.” “I’ll be the only kid who looks like me,” I said. “I’m not going to say it won’t be a big challenge for you, because you know better than that,” she answered. “But it’ll be good for you, Auggie. You’ll make lots of friends. And you’ll learn things you’d never learn with me.” She turned in her seat again and looked at me. “When we took the tour, you know what they had in their science lab? A little baby chick that was just hatching out of its egg. It was so cute! Auggie, it actually kind of reminded me of you when you were a little baby … with those big brown eyes of yours.…” I usually love when they talk about when I was a baby. Sometimes I want to curl up into a little tiny ball and let them hug me and kiss me all over. I miss being a baby, not knowing stuff. But I wasn’t in the mood for that now. “I don’t want to go,” I said. “How about this? Can you at least meet Mr. Tushman before making up your mind?” Mom asked. “Mr. Tushman?” I said. “He’s the principal,” answered Mom. “Mr. Tushman?” I repeated. “I know, right?” Dad answered, smiling and looking at me in the rearview mirror. “Can you believe that name, Auggie? I mean, who on earth would ever agree to have a name like Mr. Tushman?” I smiled even though I didn’t want to let them see me smile. Dad was the one person in the world who could make me laugh no matter how much I didn’t want to laugh. Dad always made everyone laugh. “Auggie, you know, you should go to that school just so you can hear his name said over the loudspeaker!” Dad said excitedly. “Can you imagine how funny that would be? Hello, hello? Paging Mr. Tushman!” He was using a fake high, old-lady voice. “Hi, Mr. Tushman! I see you’re running a little behind today! Did your car get rear-ended again? What a bum rap!” I started laughing, not even because I thought he was being that funny but because I wasn’t in the mood to stay mad anymore. “It could be worse, though!” Dad continued in his normal voice. “Mommy and I had a professor in college called Miss Butt.” Mom was laughing now, too. “Is that for real?” I said. “Roberta Butt,” Mom answered, raising her hand as if to swear. “Bobbie Butt.” “She had huge cheeks,” said Dad. “Nate!” said Mom. “What? She had big cheeks is all I’m saying.” Mom laughed and shook her head at the same time. “Hey hey, I know!” said Dad excitedly. “Let’s fix them up on a blind date! Can you imagine? Miss Butt, meet Mr. Tushman. Mr. Tushman, here’s Miss Butt. They could get married and have a bunch of little Tushies.” “Poor Mr. Tushman,” answered Mom, shaking her head. “Auggie hasn’t even met the man yet, Nate!” “Who’s Mr. Tushman?” Via said groggily. She had just woken up. “He’s the principal of my new school,” I answered. Paging Mr. Tushman I would have been more nervous about meeting Mr. Tushman if I’d known I was also going to be meeting some kids from the new school. But I didn’t know, so if anything, I was kind of giggly. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the jokes Daddy had made about Mr. Tushman’s name. So when me and Mom arrived at Beecher Prep a few weeks before the start of school, and I saw Mr. Tushman standing there, waiting for us at the entrance, I started giggling right away. He didn’t look at all like what I pictured, though. I guess I thought he would have a huge butt, but he didn’t. In fact, he was a pretty normal guy. Tall and thin. Old but not really old. He seemed nice. He shook my mom’s hand first. “Hi, Mr. Tushman, it’s so nice to see you again,” said Mom. “This is my son, August.” Mr. Tushman looked right at me and smiled and nodded. He put his hand out for me to shake. “Hi, August,” he said, totally normally. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” “Hi,” I mumbled, dropping my hand into his hand while I looked down at his feet. He was wearing red Adidas. “So,” he said, kneeling down in front of me so I couldn’t look at his sneakers but had to look at his face, “your mom and dad have told me a lot about you.” “Like what have they told you?” I asked. “Sorry?” “Honey, you have to speak up,” said Mom. “Like what?” I asked, trying not to mumble. I admit I have a bad habit of mumbling. “Well, that you like to read,” said Mr. Tushman, “and that you’re a great artist.” He had blue eyes with white eyelashes. “And you’re into science, right?” “Uh-huh,” I said, nodding. “We have a couple of great science electives at Beecher,” he said. “Maybe you’ll take one of them?” “Uh-huh,” I said, though I had no idea what an elective was. “So, are you ready to take a tour?” “You mean we’re doing that now?” I said. “Did you think we were going to the movies?” he answered, smiling as he stood up. “You didn’t tell me we were taking a tour,” I said to Mom in my accusing voice. “Auggie …,” she started to say. “It’ll be fine, August,” said Mr. Tushman, holding his hand out to me. “I promise.” I think he wanted me to take his hand, but I took Mom’s instead. He smiled and started walking toward the entrance. Mommy gave my hand a little squeeze, though I don’t know if it was an “I love you” squeeze or an “I’m sorry” squeeze. Probably a little of both. The only school I’d ever been inside before was Via’s, when I went with Mom and Dad to watch Via sing in spring concerts and stuff like that. This school was very different. It was smaller. It smelled like a hospital. Nice Mrs. Garcia We followed Mr. Tushman down a few hallways. There weren’t a lot of people around. And the few people who were there didn’t seem to notice me at all, though that may have been because they didn’t see me. I sort of hid behind Mom as I walked. I know that sounds kind of babyish of me, but I wasn’t feeling very brave right then. We ended up in a small room with the words OFFICE OF THE MIDDLE SCHOOL DIRECTOR on the door. Inside, there was a desk with a nice-seeming lady sitting behind it. “This is Mrs. Garcia,” said Mr. Tushman, and the lady smiled at Mom and took off her glasses and got up out of her chair. My mother shook her hand and said: “Isabel Pullman, nice to meet you.” “And this is August,” Mr. Tushman said. Mom kind of stepped to the side a bit, so I would move forward. Then that thing happened that I’ve seen happen a million times before. When I looked up at her, Mrs. Garcia’s eyes dropped for a second. It was so fast no one else would have noticed, since the rest of her face stayed exactly the same. She was smiling a really shiny smile. “Such a pleasure to meet you, August,” she said, holding out her hand for me to shake. “Hi,” I said quietly, giving her my hand, but I didn’t want to look at her face, so I kept staring at her glasses, which hung from a chain around her neck. “Wow, what a firm grip!” said Mrs. Garcia. Her hand was really warm. “The kid’s got a killer handshake,” Mr. Tushman agreed, and everyone laughed above my head. “You can call me Mrs. G,” Mrs. Garcia said. I think she was talking to me, but I was looking at all the stuff on her desk now. “That’s what everyone calls me. Mrs. G, I forgot my combination. Mrs. G, I need a late pass. Mrs. G, I want to change my elective.” “Mrs. G’s actually the one who runs the place,” said Mr. Tushman, which again made all the grown-ups laugh. “I’m here every morning by seven-thirty,” Mrs. Garcia continued, still looking at me while I stared at her brown sandals with small purple flowers on the buckles. “So if you ever need anything, August, I’m the one to ask. And you can ask me anything.” “Okay,” I mumbled. “Oh, look at that cute baby,” Mom said, pointing to one of the photographs on Mrs. Garcia’s bulletin board. “Is he yours?” “No, my goodness!” said Mrs. Garcia, smiling a big smile now that was totally different from her shiny smile. “You’ve just made my day. He’s my grandson.” “What a cutie!” said Mom, shaking her head. “How old?” “In that picture he was five months, I think. But he’s big now. Almost eight years old!” “Wow,” said Mom, nodding and smiling. “Well, he is absolutely beautiful.” “Thank you!” said Mrs. Garcia, nodding like she was about to say something else about her grandson. But then all of a sudden her smile got a little smaller. “We’re all going to take very good care of August,” she said to Mom, and I saw her give Mom’s hand a little squeeze. I looked at Mom’s face, and that’s when I realized she was just as nervous as I was. I guess I liked Mrs. Garcia—when she wasn’t wearing her shiny smile. Jack Will, Julian, and Charlotte We followed Mr. Tushman into a small room across from Mrs. Garcia’s desk. He was talking as he closed the door to his office and sat down behind his big desk, though I wasn’t really paying much attention to what he was saying. I was looking around at all the things on his desk. Cool stuff, like a globe that floated in the air and a Rubik’s-type cube made with little mirrors. I liked his office a lot. I liked that there were all these neat little drawings and paintings by students on the walls, framed like they were important. Mom sat down in a chair in front of Mr. Tushman’s desk, and even though there was another chair right next to hers, I decided to stand beside her. “Why do you have your own room and Mrs. G doesn’t?” I said. “You mean, why do I have an office?” asked Mr. Tushman. “You said she runs the place,” I said. “Oh! Well, I was kind of kidding. Mrs. G is my assistant.” “Mr. Tushman is the director of the middle school,” Mom explained. “Do they call you Mr. T?” I asked, which made him smile. “Do you know who Mr. T is?” he answered. “I pity the fool?” he said in a funny tough voice, like he was imitating someone. I had no idea what he was talking about. “Anyway, no,” said Mr. Tushman, shaking his head. “No one calls me Mr. T. Though I have a feeling I’m called a lot of other things I don’t know about. Let’s face it, a name like mine is not so easy to live with, you know what I mean?” Here I have to admit I totally laughed, because I knew exactly what he meant. “My mom and dad had a teacher called Miss Butt,” I said. “Auggie!” said Mom, but Mr. Tushman laughed. “Now, that’s bad,” said Mr. Tushman, shaking his head. “I guess I shouldn’t complain. Hey, so listen, August, here’s what I thought we would do today.…” “Is that a pumpkin?” I said, pointing to a framed painting behind Mr. Tushman’s desk. “Auggie, sweetie, don’t interrupt,” said Mom. “You like it?” said Mr. Tushman, turning around and looking at the painting. “I do, too. And I thought it was a pumpkin, too, until the student who gave it to me explained that it is actually not a pumpkin. It is … are you ready for this … a portrait of me! Now, August, I ask you: do I really look that much like a pumpkin?” “No!” I answered, though I was thinking yes. Something about the way his cheeks puffed out when he smiled made him look like a jack-o’-lantern. Just as I thought that, it occurred to me how funny that was: cheeks, Mr. Tushman. And I started laughing a little. I shook my head and covered my mouth with my hand. Mr. Tushman smiled like he could read my mind. I was about to say something else, but then all of a sudden I heard other voices outside the office: kids’ voices. I’m not exaggerating when I say this, but my heart literally started beating like I’d just run the longest race in the world. The laughter I had inside just poured out of me. The thing is, when I was little, I never minded meeting new kids because all the kids I met were really little, too. What’s cool about really little kids is that they don’t say stuff to try to hurt your feelings, even though sometimes they do say stuff that hurts your feelings. But they don’t actually know what they’re saying. Big kids, though: they know what they’re saying. And that is definitely not fun for me. One of the reasons I grew my hair long last year was that I like how my bangs cover my eyes: it helps me block out the things I don’t want to see. Mrs. Garcia knocked on the door and poked her head inside. “They’re here, Mr. Tushman,” she said. “Who’s here?” I said. “Thanks,” said Mr. Tushman to Mrs. Garcia. “August, I thought it would be a good idea for you to meet some students who’ll be in your homeroom this year. I figure they could take you around the school a bit, show you the lay of the land, so to speak.” “I don’t want to meet anyone,” I said to Mom. Mr. Tushman was suddenly right in front of me, his hands on my shoulders. He leaned down and said very softly in my ear: “It’ll be okay, August. These are nice kids, I promise.” “You’re going to be okay, Auggie,” Mom whispered with all her might. Before she could say anything else, Mr. Tushman opened the door to his office. “Come on in, kids,” he said, and in walked two boys and a girl. None of them looked over at me or Mom: they stood by the door looking straight at Mr. Tushman like their lives depended on it. “Thanks so much for coming, guys—especially since school doesn’t start until next month!” said Mr. Tushman. “Have you had a good summer?” All of them nodded but no one said anything. “Great, great,” said Mr. Tushman. “So, guys, I wanted you to meet August, who’s going to be a new student here this year. August, these guys have been students at Beecher Prep since kindergarten, though, of course, they were in the lower-school building, but they know all the ins and outs of the middle-school program. And since you’re all in the same homeroom, I thought it would be nice if you got to know each other a little before school started. Okay? So, kids, this is August. August, this is Jack Will.” Jack Will looked at me and put out his hand. When I shook it, he kind of half smiled and said: “Hey,” and looked down really fast. “This is Julian,” said Mr. Tushman. “Hey,” said Julian, and did the same exact thing as Jack Will: took my hand, forced a smile, looked down fast. “And Charlotte,” said Mr. Tushman. Charlotte had the blondest hair I’ve ever seen. She didn’t shake my hand but gave me a quick little wave and smiled. “Hi, August. Nice to meet you,” she said. “Hi,” I said, looking down. She was wearing bright green Crocs. “So,” said Mr. Tushman, putting his hands together in a kind of slow clap. “What I thought you guys could do is take August on a little tour of the school. Maybe you could start on the third floor? That’s where your homeroom class is going to be: room 301. I think. Mrs. G, is—” “Room 301!” Mrs. Garcia called out from the other room. “Room 301.” Mr. Tushman nodded. “And then you can show August the science labs and the computer room. Then work your way down to the library and the performance space on the second floor. Take him to the cafeteria, of course.” “Should we take him to the music room?” asked Julian. “Good idea, yes,” said Mr. Tushman. “August, do you play any instruments?” “No,” I said. It wasn’t my favorite subject on account of the fact that I don’t really have ears. Well, I do, but they don’t exactly look like normal ears. “Well, you may enjoy seeing the music room anyway,” said Mr. Tushman. “We have a very nice selection of percussion instruments.” “August, you’ve been wanting to learn to play the drums,” Mom said, trying to get me to look at her. But my eyes were covered by my bangs as I stared at a piece of old gum that was stuck to the bottom of Mr. Tushman’s desk. “Great! Okay, so why don’t you guys get going?” said Mr. Tushman. “Just be back here in …” He looked at Mom. “Half an hour, okay?” I think Mom nodded. “So, is that okay with you, August?” he asked me. I didn’t answer. “Is that okay, August?” Mom repeated. I looked at her now. I wanted her to see how mad I was at her. But then I saw her face and just nodded. She seemed more scared than I was. The other kids had started out the door, so I followed them. “See you soon,” said Mom, her voice sounding a little higher than normal. I didn’t answer her. The Grand Tour Jack Will, Julian, Charlotte, and I went down a big hallway to some wide stairs. No one said a word as we walked up to the third floor. When we got to the top of the stairs, we went down a little hallway full of lots of doors. Julian opened the door marked 301. “This is our homeroom,” he said, standing in front of the half-opened door. “We have Ms. Petosa. They say she’s okay, at least for homeroom. I heard she’s really strict if you get her for math, though.” “That’s not true,” said Charlotte. “My sister had her last year and said she’s totally nice.” “Not what I heard,” answered Julian, “but whatever.” He closed the door and continued walking down the hallway. “This is the science lab,” he said when he got to the next door. And just like he did two seconds ago, he stood in front of the half-opened door and started talking. He didn’t look at me once while he talked, which was okay because I wasn’t looking at him, either. “You won’t know who you have for science until the first day of school, but you want to get Mr. Haller. He used to be in the lower school. He would play this giant tuba in class.” “It was a baritone horn,” said Charlotte. “It was a tuba!” answered Julian, closing the door. “Dude, let him go inside so he can check it out,” Jack Will told him, pushing past Julian and opening the door. “Go inside if you want,” Julian said. It was the first time he looked at me. I shrugged and walked over to the door. Julian moved out of the way quickly, like he was afraid I might accidentally touch him as I passed by him. “Nothing much to see,” Julian said, walking in after me. He started pointing to a bunch of stuff around the room. “That’s the incubator. That big black thing is the chalkboard. These are the desks. These are chairs. Those are the Bunsen burners. This is a gross science poster. This is chalk. This is the eraser.” “I’m sure he knows what an eraser is,” Charlotte said, sounding a little like Via. “How would I know what he knows?” Julian answered. “Mr. Tushman said he’s never been to a school before.” “You know what an eraser is, right?” Charlotte asked me. I admit I was feeling so nervous that I didn’t know what to say or do except look at the floor. “Hey, can you talk?” asked Jack Will. “Yeah.” I nodded. I still really hadn’t looked at any of them yet, not directly. “You know what an eraser is, right?” asked Jack Will. “Of course!” I mumbled. “I told you there was nothing to see in here,” said Julian, shrugging. “I have a question …,” I said, trying to keep my voice steady. “Um. What exactly is homeroom? Is that like a subject?” “No, that’s just your group,” explained Charlotte, ignoring Julian’s smirk. “It’s like where you go when you get to school in the morning and your homeroom teacher takes attendance and stuff like that. In a way, it’s your main class even though it’s not really a class. I mean, it’s a class, but—” “I think he gets it, Charlotte,” said Jack Will. “Do you get it?” Charlotte asked me. “Yeah.” I nodded at her. “Okay, let’s get out of here,” said Jack Will, walking away. “Wait, Jack, we’re supposed to be answering questions,” said Charlotte. Jack Will rolled his eyes a little as he turned around. “Do you have any more questions?” he asked. “Um, no,” I answered. “Oh, well, actually, yes. Is your name Jack or Jack Will?” “Jack is my first name. Will is my last name.” “Oh, because Mr. Tushman introduced you as Jack Will, so I thought …” “Ha! You thought his name was Jackwill!” laughed Julian. “Yeah, some people call me by my first and last name,” Jack said, shrugging. “I don’t know why. Anyway, can we go now?” “Let’s go to the performance space next,” said Charlotte, leading the way out of the science room. “It’s very cool. You’ll like it, August.” The Performance Space Charlotte basically didn’t stop talking as we headed down to the second floor. She was describing the play they had put on last year, which was Oliver! She played Oliver even though she’s a girl. As she said this, she pushed open the double doors to a huge auditorium. At the other end of the room was a stage. Charlotte started skipping toward the stage. Julian ran after her, and then turned around halfway down the aisle. “Come on!” he said loudly, waving for me to follow him, which I did. “There were like hundreds of people in the audience that night,” said Charlotte, and it took me a second to realize she was still talking about Oliver! “I was so, so nervous. I had so many lines, and I had all these songs to sing. It was so, so, so, so hard!” Although she was talking to me, she really didn’t look at me much. “On opening night, my parents were all the way in back of the auditorium, like where Jack is right now, but when the lights are off, you can’t really see that far back. So I was like, ‘Where are my parents? Where are my parents?’ And then Mr. Resnick, our theater-arts teacher last year—he said: ‘Charlotte, stop being such a diva!’ And I was like, ‘Okay!’ And then I spotted my parents and I was totally fine. I didn’t forget a single line.” While she was talking, I noticed Julian staring at me out of the corner of his eye. This is something I see people do a lot with me. They think I don’t know they’re staring, but I can tell from the way their heads are tilted. I turned around to see where Jack had gone to. He had stayed in the back of the auditorium, like he was bored. “We put on a play every year,” said Charlotte. “I don’t think he’s going to want to be in the school play, Charlotte,” said Julian sarcastically. “You can be in the play without actually being ‘in’ the play,” Charlotte answered, looking at me. “You can do the lighting. You can paint the backdrops.” “Oh yeah, whoopee,” said Julian, twirling his finger in the air. “But you don’t have to take the theater-arts elective if you don’t want to,” Charlotte said, shrugging. “There’s dance or chorus or band. There’s leadership.” “Only dorks take leadership,” Julian interrupted. “Julian, you’re being so obnoxious!” said Charlotte, which made Julian laugh. “I’m taking the science elective,” I said. “Cool!” said Charlotte. Julian looked directly at me. “The science elective is supposably the hardest elective of all,” he said. “No offense, but if you’ve never, ever been in a school before, why do you think you’re suddenly going to be smart enough to take the science elective? I mean, have you ever even studied science before? Like real science, not like the kind you do in kits?” “Yeah.” I nodded. “He was homeschooled, Julian!” said Charlotte. “So teachers came to his house?” asked Julian, looking puzzled. “No, his mother taught him!” answered Charlotte. “Is she a teacher?” Julian said. “Is your mother a teacher?” Charlotte asked me. “No,” I said. “So she’s not a real teacher!” said Julian, as if that proved his point. “That’s what I mean. How can someone who’s not a real teacher actually teach science?” “I’m sure you’ll do fine,” said Charlotte, looking at me. “Let’s just go to the library now,” Jack called out, sounding really bored. “Why is your hair so long?” Julian said to me. He sounded like he was annoyed. I didn’t know what to say, so I just shrugged. “Can I ask you a question?” he said. I shrugged again. Didn’t he just ask me a question? “What’s the deal with your face? I mean, were you in a fire or something?” “Julian, that’s so rude!” said Charlotte. “I’m not being rude,” said Julian, “I’m just asking a question. Mr. Tushman said we could ask questions if we wanted to.” “Not rude questions like that,” said Charlotte. “Besides, he was born like that. That’s what Mr. Tushman said. You just weren’t listening.” “I was so listening!” said Julian. “I just thought maybe he was in a fire, too.” “Geez, Julian,” said Jack. “Just shut up.” “You shut up!” Julian yelled. “Come on, August,” said Jack. “Let’s just go to the library already.” I walked toward Jack and followed him out of the auditorium. He held the double doors open for me, and as I passed by, he looked at me right in the face, kind of daring me to look back at him, which I did. Then I actually smiled. I don’t know. Sometimes when I have the feeling like I’m almost crying, it can turn into an almost-laughing feeling. And that must have been the feeling I was having then, because I smiled, almost like I was going to giggle. The thing is, because of the way my face is, people who don’t know me very well don’t always get that I’m smiling. My mouth doesn’t go up at the corners the way other people’s mouths do. It just goes straight across my face. But somehow Jack Will got that I had smiled at him. And he smiled back. “Julian’s a jerk,” he whispered before Julian and Charlotte reached us. “But, dude, you’re gonna have to talk.” He said this seriously, like he was trying to help me. I nodded as Julian and Charlotte caught up to us. We were all quiet for a second, all of us just kind of nodding, looking at the floor. Then I looked up at Julian. “The word’s ‘supposedly,’ by the way,” I said. “What are you talking about?” “You said ‘supposably’ before,” I said. “I did not!” “Yeah you did,” Charlotte nodded. “You said the science elective is supposably really hard. I heard you.” “I absolutely did not,” he insisted. “Whatever,” said Jack. “Let’s just go.” “Yeah, let’s just go,” agreed Charlotte, following Jack down the stairs to the next floor. I started to follow her, but Julian cut right in front of me, which actually made me stumble backward. “Oops, sorry about that!” said Julian. But I could tell from the way he looked at me that he wasn’t really sorry at all. The Deal Mom and Mr. Tushman were talking when we got back to the office. Mrs. Garcia was the first to see us come back, and she started smiling her shiny smile as we walked in. “So, August, what did you think? Did you like what you saw?” she asked. “Yeah.” I nodded, looking over at Mom. Jack, Julian, and Charlotte were standing by the door, not sure where to go or if they were still needed. I wondered what else they’d been told about me before they’d met me. “Did you see the baby chick?” Mom asked me. As I shook my head, Julian said: “Are you talking about the baby chicks in science? Those get donated to a farm at the end of every school year.” “Oh,” said Mom, disappointed. “But they hatch new ones every year in science,” Julian added. “So August will be able to see them again in the spring.” “Oh, good,” said Mom, eyeing me. “They were so cute, August.” I wished she wouldn’t talk to me like I was a baby in front of other people. “So, August,” said Mr. Tushman, “did these guys show you around enough or do you want to see more? I realize I forgot to ask them to show you the gym.” “We did anyway, Mr. Tushman,” said Julian. “Excellent!” said Mr. Tushman. “And I told him about the school play and some of the electives,” said Charlotte. “Oh no!” she said suddenly. “We forgot to show him the art room!” “That’s okay,” said Mr. Tushman. “But we can show it to him now,” Charlotte offered. “Don’t we have to pick Via up soon?” I said to Mom. That was our signal for my telling Mom if I really wanted to leave. “Oh, you’re right,” said Mom, getting up. I could tell she was pretending to check the time on her watch. “I’m sorry, everybody. I lost track of the time. We have to go pick up my daughter at her new school. She’s taking an unofficial tour today.” This part wasn’t a lie: that Via was checking out her new school today. The part that was a lie was that we were picking her up at the school, which we weren’t. She was coming home with Dad later. “Where does she go to school?” asked Mr. Tushman, getting up. “She’s starting Faulkner High School this fall.” “Wow, that’s not an easy school to get into. Good for her!” “Thank you,” said Mom, nodding. “It’ll be a bit of a schlep, though. The A train down to Eighty-Sixth, then the crosstown bus all the way to the East Side. Takes an hour that way but it’s just a fifteen-minute drive.” “It’ll be worth it. I know a couple of kids who got into Faulkner and love it,” said Mr. Tushman. “We should really go, Mom,” I said, tugging at her pocketbook. We said goodbye kind of quickly after that. I think Mr. Tushman was a little surprised that we were leaving so suddenly, and then I wondered if he would blame Jack and Charlotte, even though it was really only Julian who made me feel kind of bad. “Everyone was really nice,” I made sure to tell Mr. Tushman before we left. “I look forward to having you as a student,” said Mr. Tushman, patting my back. “Bye,” I said to Jack, Charlotte, and Julian, but I didn’t look at them—or look up at all—until I left the building. Home As soon as we had walked at least half a block from the school, Mom said: “So … how’d it go? Did you like it?” “Not yet, Mom. When we get home,” I said. The moment we got inside the house, I ran to my room and threw myself onto my bed. I could tell Mom didn’t know what was up, and I guess I really didn’t, either. I felt very sad and a tiny bit happy at the exact same time, kind of like that laughing-crying feeling all over again. My dog, Daisy, followed me into the room, jumped on the bed, and started licking me all over my face. “Who’s a good girlie?” I said in my Dad voice. “Who’s a good girlie?” “Is everything okay, sweetness?” Mom said. She wanted to sit down beside me but Daisy was hogging the bed. “Excuse me, Daisy.” She sat down, nudging Daisy over. “Were those kids not nice to you, Auggie?” “Oh no,” I said, only half lying. “They were okay.” “But were they nice? Mr. Tushman went out of his way to tell me what sweet kids they are.” “Uh-huh.” I nodded, but I kept looking at Daisy, kissing her on the nose and rubbing her ear until her back leg did that little flea-scratch shake. “That boy Julian seemed especially nice,” Mom said. “Oh, no, he was the least nice. I liked Jack, though. He was nice. I thought his name was Jack Will but it’s just Jack.” “Wait, maybe I’m getting them confused. Which one was the one with the dark hair that was brushed forward?” “Julian.” “And he wasn’t nice?” “No, not nice.” “Oh.” She thought about this for a second. “Okay, so is he the kind of kid who’s one way in front of grown-ups and another way in front of kids?” “Yeah, I guess.” “Ah, hate those,” she answered, nodding. “He was like, ‘So, August, what’s the deal with your face?’ ” I said, looking at Daisy the whole time. “ ‘Were you in a fire or something?’ ” Mom didn’t say anything. When I looked up at her, I could tell she was completely shocked. “He didn’t say it in a mean way,” I said quickly. “He was just asking.” Mom nodded. “But I really liked Jack,” I said. “He was like, ‘Shut up, Julian!’ And Charlotte was like, ‘You’re so rude, Julian!’ ” Mom nodded again. She pressed her fingers on her forehead like she was pushing against a headache. “I’m so sorry, Auggie,” she said quietly. Her cheeks were bright red. “No, it’s okay, Mom, really.” “You don’t have to go to school if you don’t want, sweetie.” “I want to,” I said. “Auggie …” “Really, Mom. I want to.” And I wasn’t lying. First-Day Jitters Okay, so I admit that the first day of school I was so nervous that the butterflies in my stomach were more like pigeons flying around my insides. Mom and Dad were probably a little nervous, too, but they acted all excited for me, taking pictures of me and Via before we left the house since it was Via’s first day of school, too. Up until a few days before, we still weren’t sure I would be going to school at all. After my tour of the school, Mom and Dad had reversed sides on whether I should go or not. Mom was now the one saying I shouldn’t go and Dad was saying I should. Dad had told me he was really proud of how I’d handled myself with Julian and that I was turning into quite the strong man. And I heard him tell Mom that he now thought she had been right all along. But Mom, I could tell, wasn’t so sure anymore. When Dad told her that he and Via wanted to walk me to school today, too, since it was on the way to the subway station, Mom seemed relieved that we would all be going together. And I guess I was, too. Even though Beecher Prep is just a few blocks from our house, I’ve only been on that block a couple of times before. In general, I try to avoid blocks where there are lots of kids roaming around. On our block, everybody knows me and I know everybody. I know every brick and every tree trunk and every crack in the sidewalk. I know Mrs. Grimaldi, the lady who’s always sitting by her window, and the old guy who walks up and down the street whistling like a bird. I know the deli on the corner where Mom gets our bagels, and the waitresses at the coffee shop who all call me “honey” and give me lollipops whenever they see me. I love my neighborhood of North River Heights, which is why it was so strange to be walking down these blocks feeling like it was all new to me suddenly. Amesfort Avenue, a street I’ve been down a million times, looked totally different for some reason. Full of people I never saw before, waiting for buses, pushing strollers. We crossed Amesfort and turned up Heights Place: Via walked next to me like she usually does, and Mom and Dad were behind us. As soon as we turned the corner, we saw all the kids in front of the school—hundreds of them talking to each other in little groups, laughing, or standing with their parents, who were talking with other parents. I kept my head way down. “Everyone’s just as nervous as you are,” said Via in my ear. “Just remember that this is everyone’s first day of school. Okay?” Mr. Tushman was greeting students and parents in front of the school entrance. I have to admit: so far, nothing bad had happened. I didn’t catch anyone staring or even noticing me. Only once did I look up to see some girls looking my way and whispering with their hands cupped over their mouths, but they looked away when they saw me notice them. We reached the front entrance. “Okay, so this is it, big boy,” said Dad, putting his hands on top of my shoulders. “Have a great first day. I love you,” said Via, giving me a big kiss and a hug. “You, too,” I said. “I love you, Auggie,” said Dad, hugging me. “Bye.” Then Mom hugged me, but I could tell she was about to cry, which would have totally embarrassed me, so I just gave her a fast hard hug, turned, and disappeared into the school. Locks I went straight to room 301 on the third floor. Now I was glad I’d gone on that little tour, because I knew exactly where to go and didn’t have to look up once. I noticed that some kids were definitely staring at me now. I did my thing of pretending not to notice. I went inside the classroom, and the teacher was writing on the chalkboard while all the kids started sitting at different desks. The desks were in a half circle facing the chalkboard, so I chose the desk in the middle toward the back, which I thought would make it harder for anyone to stare at me. I still kept my head way down, just looking up enough from under my bangs to see everyone’s feet. As the desks started to fill up, I did notice that no one sat down next to me. A couple of times someone was about to sit next to me, then changed his or her mind at the last minute and sat somewhere else. “Hey, August.” It was Charlotte, giving me her little wave as she sat down at a desk in the front of the class. Why anyone would ever choose to sit way up front in a class, I don’t know. “Hey,” I said, nodding hello. Then I noticed Julian was sitting a few seats away from her, talking to some other kids. I know he saw me, but he didn’t say hello. Suddenly someone was sitting down next to me. It was Jack Will. Jack. “What’s up,” he said, nodding at me. “Hey, Jack,” I answered, waving my hand, which I immediately wished I hadn’t done because it felt kind of uncool. “Okay, kids, okay, everybody! Settle down,” said the teacher, now facing us. She had written her name, Ms. Petosa, on the chalkboard. “Everybody find a seat, please. Come in,” she said to a couple of kids who had just walked in the room. “There’s a seat there, and right there.” She hadn’t noticed me yet. “Now, the first thing I want everyone to do is stop talking and …” She noticed me. “… put your backpacks down and quiet down.” She had only hesitated for a millionth of a second, but I could tell the moment she saw me. Like I said: I’m used to it by now. “I’m going to take attendance and do the seating chart,” she continued, sitting on the edge of her desk. Next to her were three neat rows of accordion folders. “When I call your name, come up and I’ll hand you a folder with your name on it. It contains your class schedule and your combination lock, which you should not try to open until I tell you to. Your locker number is written on the class schedule. Be forewarned that some lockers are not right outside this class but down the hall, and before anyone even thinks of asking: no, you cannot switch lockers and you can’t switch locks. Then if there’s time at the end of this period, we’re all going to get to know each other a little better, okay? Okay.” She picked up the clipboard on her desk and started reading the names out loud. “Okay, so, Julian Albans?” she said, looking up. Julian raised his hand and said “Here” at the same time. “Hi, Julian,” she said, making a note on her seating chart. She picked up the very first folder and held it out toward him. “Come pick it up,” she said, kind of no-nonsense. He got up and took it from her. “Ximena Chin?” She handed a folder to each kid as she read off the names. As she went down the list, I noticed that the seat next to me was the only one still empty, even though there were two kids sitting at one desk just a few seats away. When she called the name of one of them, a big kid named Henry Joplin who already looked like a teenager, she said: “Henry, there’s an empty desk right over there. Why don’t you take that seat, okay?” She handed him his folder and pointed to the desk next to mine. Although I didn’t look at him directly, I could tell Henry did not want to move next to me, just by the way he dragged his backpack on the floor as he came over, like he was moving in slow motion. Then he plopped his backpack up really high on the right side of the desk so it was kind of like a wall between his desk and mine. “Maya Markowitz?” Ms. Petosa was saying. “Here,” said a girl about four desks down from me. “Miles Noury?” “Here,” said the kid that had been sitting with Henry Joplin. As he walked back to his desk, I saw him shoot Henry a “poor you” look. “August Pullman?” said Ms. Petosa. “Here,” I said quietly, raising my hand a bit. “Hi, August,” she said, smiling at me very nicely when I went up to get my folder. I kind of felt everyone’s eyes burning into my back for the few seconds I stood in the front of the class, and everybody looked down when I walked back to my desk. I resisted spinning the combination when I sat down, even though everyone else was doing it, because she had specifically told us not to. I was already pretty good at opening locks, anyway, because I’ve used them on my bike. Henry kept trying to open his lock but couldn’t do it. He was getting frustrated and kind of cursing under his breath. Ms. Petosa called out the next few names. The last name was Jack Will. After she handed Jack his folder, she said: “Okay, so, everybody write your combinations down somewhere safe that you won’t forget, okay? But if you do forget, which happens at least three point two times per semester, Mrs. Garcia has a list of all the combination numbers. Now go ahead, take your locks out of your folders and spend a couple of minutes practicing how to open them, though I know some of you went ahead and did that anyway.” She was looking at Henry when she said that. “And in the meanwhile, I’ll tell you guys a little something about myself. And then you guys can tell me a little about yourselves and we’ll, um, get to know each other. Sound good? Good.” She smiled at everyone, though I felt like she was smiling at me the most. It wasn’t a shiny smile, like Mrs. Garcia’s smile, but a normal smile, like she meant it. She looked very different from what I thought teachers were going to look like. I guess I thought she’d look like Miss Fowl from Jimmy Neutron: an old lady with a big bun on top of her head. But, in fact, she looked exactly like Mon Mothma from Star Wars Episode IV: haircut kind of like a boy’s, and a big white shirt kind of like a tunic. She turned around and started writing on the chalkboard. Henry still couldn’t get his lock to open, and he was getting more and more frustrated every time someone else popped one open. He got really annoyed when I was able to open mine on the first try. The funny thing is, if he hadn’t put the backpack between us, I most definitely would have offered to help him. Around the Room Ms. Petosa told us a little about who she was. It was boring stuff about where she originally came from, and how she always wanted to teach, and she left her job on Wall Street about six years ago to pursue her “dream” and teach kids. She ended by asking if anyone had any questions, and Julian raised his hand. “Yes …” She had to look at the list to remember his name. “Julian.” “That’s cool about how you’re pursuing your dream,” he said. “Thank you!” “You’re welcome!” He smiled proudly. “Okay, so why don’t you tell us a little about yourself, Julian? Actually, here’s what I want everyone to do. Think of two things you want other people to know about you. Actually, wait a minute: how many of you came from the Beecher lower school?” About half the kids raised their hands. “Okay, so a few of you already know each other. But the rest of you, I guess, are new to the school, right? Okay, so everyone think of two things you want other people to know about you—and if you know some of the other kids, try to think of things they don’t already know about you. Okay? Okay. So let’s start with Julian and we’ll go around the room.” Julian scrunched up his face and started tapping his forehead like he was thinking really hard. “Okay, whenever you’re ready,” Ms. Petosa said. “Okay, so number one is that—” “Do me a favor and start with your names, okay?” Ms. Petosa interrupted. “It’ll help me remember everyone.” “Oh, okay. So my name is Julian. And the number one thing I’d like to tell everyone about myself is that … I just got Battleground Mystic for my Wii and it’s totally awesome. And the number two thing is that we got a Ping-Pong table this summer.” “Very nice, I love Ping-Pong,” said Ms. Petosa. “Does anyone have any questions for Julian?” “Is Battleground Mystic multiplayer or one player?” said the kid named Miles. “Not those kinds of questions, guys,” said Ms. Petosa. “Okay, so how about you.…” She pointed to Charlotte, probably because her desk was closest to the front. “Oh, sure.” Charlotte didn’t hesitate for even a second, like she knew exactly what she wanted to say. “My name is Charlotte. I have two sisters, and we just got a new puppy named Suki in July. We got her from an animal shelter and she’s so, so cute!” “That’s great, Charlotte, thank you,” said Ms. Petosa. “Okay, then, who’s next?” Lamb to the Slaughter “Like a lamb to the slaughter”: Something that you say about someone who goes somewhere calmly, not knowing that something unpleasant is going to happen to them. I Googled it last night. That’s what I was thinking when Ms. Petosa called my name and suddenly it was my turn to talk. “My name is August,” I said, and yeah, I kind of mumbled it. “What?” said someone. “Can you speak up, honey?” said Ms. Petosa. “My name is August,” I said louder, forcing myself to look up. “I, um … have a sister named Via and a dog named Daisy. And, um … that’s it.” “Wonderful,” said Ms. Petosa. “Anyone have questions for August?” No one said anything. “Okay, you’re next,” said Ms. Petosa to Jack. “Wait, I have a question for August,” said Julian, raising his hand. “Why do you have that tiny braid in the back of your hair? Is that like a Padawan thing?” “Yeah.” I shrug-nodded. “What’s a Padawan thing?” said Ms. Petosa, smiling at me. “It’s from Star Wars,” answered Julian. “A Padawan is a Jedi apprentice.” “Oh, interesting,” answered Ms. Petosa, looking at me. “So, are you into Star Wars, August?” “I guess.” I nodded, not looking up because what I really wanted was to just slide under the desk. “Who’s your favorite character?” Julian asked. I started thinking maybe he wasn’t so bad. “Jango Fett.” “What about Darth Sidious?” he said. “Do you like him?” “Okay, guys, you can talk about Star Wars stuff at recess,” said Ms. Petosa cheerfully. “But let’s keep going. We haven’t heard from you yet,” she said to Jack. Now it was Jack’s turn to talk, but I admit I didn’t hear a word he said. Maybe no one got the Darth Sidious thing, and maybe Julian didn’t mean anything at all. But in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Darth Sidious’s face gets burned by Sith lightning and becomes totally deformed. His skin gets all shriveled up and his whole face just kind of melts. I peeked at Julian and he was looking at me. Yeah, he knew what he was saying. Choose Kind There was a lot of shuffling around when the bell rang and everybody got up to leave. I checked my schedule and it said my next class was English, room 321. I didn’t stop to see if anyone else from my homeroom was going my way: I just zoomed out of the class and down the hall and sat down as far from the front as possible. The teacher, a really tall man with a yellow beard, was writing on the chalkboard. Kids came in laughing and talking in little groups but I didn’t look up. Basically, the same thing that happened in homeroom happened again: no one sat next to me except for Jack, who was joking around with some kids who weren’t in our homeroom. I could tell Jack was the kind of kid other kids like. He had a lot of friends. He made people laugh. When the second bell rang, everyone got quiet and the teacher turned around and faced us. He said his name was Mr. Browne, and then he started talking about what we would be doing this semester. At a certain point, somewhere between A Wrinkle in Time and Shen of the Sea, he noticed me but kept right on talking. I was mostly doodling in my notebook while he talked, but every once in a while I would sneak a look at the other students. Charlotte was in this class. So were Julian and Henry. Miles wasn’t. Mr. Browne had written on the chalkboard in big block letters: P-R-E-C-E-P-T! “Okay, everybody write this down at the very top of the very first page in your English notebook.” As we did what he told us to do, he said: “Okay, so who can tell me what a precept is? Does anyone know?” No one raised their hands. Mr. Browne smiled, nodded, and turned around to write on the chalkboard again: PRECEPTS = RULES ABOUT REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS! “Like a motto?” someone called out. “Like a motto!” said Mr. Browne, nodding as he continued writing on the board. “Like a famous quote. Like a line from a fortune cookie. Any saying or ground rule that can motivate you. Basically, a precept is anything that helps guide us when making decisions about really important things.” He wrote all that on the chalkboard and then turned around and faced us. “So, what are some really important things?” he asked us. A few kids raised their hands, and as he pointed at them, they gave their answers, which he wrote on the chalkboard in really, really sloppy handwriting: RULES. SCHOOLWORK. HOMEWORK. “What else?” he said as he wrote, not even turning around. “Just call things out!” He wrote everything everyone called out. FAMILY. PARENTS. PETS. One girl called out: “The environment!” THE ENVIRONMENT. he wrote on the chalkboard, and added: OUR WORLD! “Sharks, because they eat dead things in the ocean!” said one of the boys, a kid named Reid, and Mr. Browne wrote down SHARKS. “Bees!” “Seatbelts!” “Recycling!” “Friends!” “Okay,” said Mr. Browne, writing all those things down. He turned around when he finished writing to face us again. “But no one’s named the most important thing of all.” We all looked at him, out of ideas. “God?” said one kid, and I could tell that even though Mr. Browne wrote “God” down, that wasn’t the answer he was looking for. Without saying anything else, he wrote down: WHO WE ARE! “Who we are,” he said, underlining each word as he said it. “Who we are! Us! Right? What kind of people are we? What kind of person are you? Isn’t that the most important thing of all? Isn’t that the kind of question we should be asking ourselves all the time? “What kind of person am I? “Did anyone happen to notice the plaque next to the door of this school? Anyone read what it says? Anyone?” He looked around but no one knew the answer. “It says: ‘Know Thyself,’ ” he said, smiling and nodding. “And learning who you are is what you’re here to do.” “I thought we were here to learn English,” Jack cracked, which made everyone laugh. “Oh yeah, and that, too!” Mr. Browne answered, which I thought was very cool of him. He turned around and wrote in big huge block letters that spread all the way across the chalkboard: MR. BROWNE’S SEPTEMBER PRECEPT: WHEN GIVEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN BEING RIGHT OR BEING KIND, CHOOSE KIND. “Okay, so, everybody,” he said, facing us again, “I want you to start a brand-new section in your notebooks and call it Mr. Browne’s Precepts.” He kept talking as we did what he was telling us to do. “Put today’s date at the top of the first page. And from now on, at the beginning of every month, I’m going to write a new Mr. Browne precept on the chalkboard and you’re going to write it down in your notebook. Then we’re going to discuss that precept and what it means. And at the end of the month, you’re going to write an essay about it, about what it means to you. So by the end of the year, you’ll all have your own list of precepts to take away with you. “Over the summer, I ask all my students to come up with their very own personal precept, write it on a postcard, and mail it to me from wherever you go on your summer vacation.” “People really do that?” said one girl whose name I didn’t know. “Oh yeah!” he answered, “people really do that. I’ve had students send me new precepts years after they’ve graduated from this school, actually. It’s pretty amazing.” He paused and stroked his beard. “But, anyway, next summer seems like a long way off, I know,” he joked, which made us laugh. “So, everybody relax a bit while I take attendance, and then when we’re finished with that, I’ll start telling you about all the fun stuff we’re going to be doing this year—in English.” He pointed to Jack when he said this, which was also funny, so we all laughed at that. As I wrote down Mr. Browne’s September precept, I suddenly realized that I was going to like school. No matter what. Lunch Via had warned me about lunch in middle school, so I guess I should have known it would be hard. I just hadn’t expected it to be this hard. Basically, all the kids from all the fifth-grade classes poured into the cafeteria at the same time, talking loudly and bumping into one another while they ran to different tables. One of the lunchroom teachers said something about no seat-saving allowed, but I didn’t know what she meant and maybe no one else did, either, because just about everybody was saving seats for their friends. I tried to sit down at one table, but the kid in the next chair said, “Oh, sorry, but somebody else is sitting here.” So I moved to an empty table and just waited for everyone to finish stampeding and the lunchroom teacher to tell us what to do next. As she started telling us the cafeteria rules, I looked around to see where Jack Will was sitting, but I didn’t see him on my side of the room. Kids were still coming in as the teachers started calling the first few tables to get their trays and stand on line at the counter. Julian, Henry, and Miles were sitting at a table toward the back of the room. Mom had packed me a cheese sandwich, graham crackers, and a juice box, so I didn’t need to stand on line when my table was called. Instead, I just concentrated on opening my backpack, pulling out my lunch bag, and slowly opening the aluminum-foil wrapping of my sandwich. I could tell I was being stared at without even looking up. I knew that people were nudging each other, watching me out of the corners of their eyes. I thought I was used to those kinds of stares by now, but I guess I wasn’t. There was one table of girls that I knew were whispering about me because they were talking behind their hands. Their eyes and whispers kept bouncing over to me. I hate the way I eat. I know how weird it looks. I had a surgery to fix my cleft palate when I was a baby, and then a second cleft surgery when I was four, but I still have a hole in the roof of my mouth. And even though I had jaw-alignment surgery a few years ago, I have to chew food in the front of my mouth. I didn’t even realize how this looked until I was at a birthday party once, and one of the kids told the mom of the birthday boy he didn’t want to sit next to me because I was too messy with all the food crumbs shooting out of my mouth. I know the kid wasn’t trying to be mean, but he got in big trouble later, and his mom called my mom that night to apologize. When I got home from the party, I went to the bathroom mirror and started eating a saltine cracker to see what I looked like when I was chewing. The kid was right. I eat like a tortoise, if you’ve ever seen a tortoise eating. Like some prehistoric swamp thing. The Summer Table “Hey, is this seat taken?” I looked up, and a girl I never saw before was standing across from my table with a lunch tray full of food. She had long wavy brown hair, and wore a brown T-shirt with a purple peace sign on it. “Uh, no,” I said. She put her lunch tray on the table, plopped her backpack on the floor, and sat down across from me. She started to eat the mac and cheese on her plate. “Ugh,” she said after the swallowing the first bite. “I should have brought a sandwich like you did.” “Yeah,” I said, nodding. “My name is Summer, by the way. What’s yours?” “August.” “Cool,” she said. “Summer!” Another girl came over to the table carrying a tray. “Why are you sitting here? Come back to the table.” “It was too crowded,” Summer answered her. “Come sit here. There’s more room.” The other girl looked confused for a second. I realized she had been one of the girls I had caught looking at me just a few minutes earlier: hand cupped over her mouth, whispering. I guess Summer had been one of the girls at that table, too. “Never mind,” said the girl, leaving. Summer looked at me, shrugged-smiled, and took another bite of her mac and cheese. “Hey, our names kind of match,” she said as she chewed. I guess she could tell I didn’t know what she meant. “Summer? August?” she said, smiling, her eyes open wide, as she waited for me to get it. “Oh, yeah,” I said after a second. “We can make this the ‘summer only’ lunch table,” she said. “Only kids with summer names can sit here. Let’s see, is there anyone here named June or July?” “There’s a Maya,” I said. “Technically, May is spring,” Summer answered, “but if she wanted to sit here, we could make an exception.” She said it as if she’d actually thought the whole thing through. “There’s Julian. That’s like the name Julia, which comes from July.” I didn’t say anything. “There’s a kid named Reid in my English class,” I said. “Yeah, I know Reid, but how is Reid a summer name?” she asked. “I don’t know.” I shrugged. “I just picture, like, a reed of grass being a summer thing.” “Yeah, okay.” She nodded, pulling out her notebook. “And Ms. Petosa could sit here, too. That kind of sounds like the word ‘petal,’ which I think of as a summer thing, too.” “I have her for homeroom,” I said. “I have her for math,” she answered, making a face. She started writing the list of names on the second-to-last page of her notebook. “So, who else?” she said. By the end of lunch, we had come up with a whole list of names of kids and teachers who could sit at our table if they wanted. Most of the names weren’t actually summer names, but they were names that had some kind of connection to summer. I even found a way of making Jack Will’s name work by pointing out that you could turn his name into a sentence about summer, like “Jack will go to the beach,” which Summer agreed worked fine. “But if someone doesn’t have a summer name and wants to sit with us,” she said very seriously, “we’ll still let them if they’re nice, okay?” “Okay.” I nodded. “Even if it’s a winter name.” “Cool beans,” she answered, giving me a thumbs-up. Summer looked like her name. She had a tan, and her eyes were green like a leaf. One to Ten Mom always had this habit of asking me how something felt on a scale of one to ten. It started after I had my jaw surgery, when I couldn’t talk because my mouth was wired shut. They had taken a piece of bone from my hip bone to insert into my chin to make it look more normal, so I was hurting in a lot of different places. Mom would point to one of my bandages, and I would hold up my fingers to show her how much it was hurting. One meant a little bit. Ten meant so, so, so much. Then she would tell the doctor when he made his rounds what needed adjusting or things like that. Mom got very good at reading my mind sometimes. After that, we got into the habit of doing the one-to-ten scale for anything that hurt, like if I just had a plain old sore throat, she’d ask: “One to ten?” And I’d say: “Three,” or whatever it was. When school was over, I went outside to meet Mom, who was waiting for me at the front entrance like all the other parents or babysitters. The first thing she said after hugging me was: “So, how was it? One to ten?” “Five,” I said, shrugging, which I could tell totally surprised her. “Wow,” she said quietly, “that’s even better than I hoped for.” “Are we picking Via up?” “Miranda’s mother is picking her up today. Do you want me to carry your backpack, sweetness?” We had started walking through the crowd of kids and parents, most of whom were noticing me, “secretly” pointing me out to each other. “I’m fine,” I said. “It looks too heavy, Auggie.” She started to take it from me. “Mom!” I said, pulling my backpack away from her. I walked in front of her through the crowd. “See you tomorrow, August!” It was Summer. She was walking in the opposite direction. “Bye, Summer,” I said, waving at her. As soon as we crossed the street and were away from the crowd, Mom said: “Who was that, Auggie?” “Summer.” “Is she in your class?” “I have lots of classes.” “Is she in any of your classes?” Mom said. “Nope.” Mom waited for me to say something else, but I just didn’t feel like talking. “So it went okay?” said Mom. I could tell she had a million questions she wanted to ask me. “Everyone was nice? Did you like your teachers?” “Yeah.” “How about those kids you met last week? Were they nice?” “Fine, fine. Jack hung out with me a lot.” “That’s so great, sweetie. What about that boy Julian?” I thought about that Darth Sidious comment. By now it felt like that had happened a hundred years ago. “He was okay,” I said. “And the blond girl, what was her name?” “Charlotte. Mom, I said everyone was nice already.” “Okay,” Mom answered. I honestly don’t know why I was kind of mad at Mom, but I was. We crossed Amesfort Avenue, and she didn’t say anything else until we turned onto our block. “So,” Mom said. “How did you meet Summer if she wasn’t in any of your classes?” “We sat together at lunch,” I said. I had started kicking a rock between my feet like it was a soccer ball, chasing it back and forth across the sidewalk. “She seems very nice.” “Yeah, she is.” “She’s very pretty,” Mom said. “Yeah, I know,” I answered. “We’re kind of like Beauty and the Beast.” I didn’t wait to see Mom’s reaction. I just started running down the sidewalk after the rock, which I had kicked as hard as I could in front of me. Padawan That night I cut off the little braid on the back of my head. Dad noticed first. “Oh good,” he said. “I never liked that thing.” Via couldn’t believe I had cut it off. “That took you years to grow!” she said, almost like she was angry. “Why did you cut it off?” “I don’t know,” I answered. “Did someone make fun of it?” “No.” “Did you tell Christopher you were cutting it off?” “We’re not even friends anymore!” “That’s not true,” she said. “I can’t believe you would just cut it off like that,” she added snottily, and then practically slammed my bedroom door shut as she left the room. I was snuggling with Daisy on my bed when Dad came to tuck me in later. He scooched Daisy over gently and lay down next to me on the blanket. “So, Auggie Doggie,” he said, “it was really an okay day?” He got that from an old cartoon about a dachshund named Auggie Doggie, by the way. He had bought it for me on eBay when I was about four, and we watched it a lot for a while—especially in the hospital. He would call me Auggie Doggie and I would call him “dear ol’ Dad,” like the puppy called the dachshund dad on the show. “Yeah, it was totally okay,” I said, nodding. “You’ve been so quiet all night long.” “I guess I’m tired.” “It was a long day, huh?” I nodded. “But it really was okay?” I nodded again. He didn’t say anything, so after a few seconds, I said: “It was better than okay, actually.” “That’s great to hear, Auggie,” he said quietly, kissing my forehead. “So it looks like it was a good call Mom made, your going to school.” “Yeah. But I could stop going if I wanted to, right?” “That was the deal, yes,” he answered. “Though I guess it would depend on why you wanted to stop going, too, you know. You’d have to let us know. You’d have to talk to us and tell us how you’re feeling, and if anything bad was happening. Okay? You promise you’d tell us?” “Yeah.” “So can I ask you something? Are you mad at Mom or something? You’ve been kind of huffy with her all night long. You know, Auggie, I’m as much to blame for sending you to school as she is.” “No, she’s more to blame. It was her idea.” Mom knocked on the door just then and peeked her head inside my room. “Just wanted to say good night,” she said. She looked kind of shy for a second. “Hi, Momma,” Dad said, picking up my hand and waving it at her. “I heard you cut off your braid,” Mom said to me, sitting down at the edge of the bed next to Daisy. “It’s not a big deal,” I answered quickly. “I didn’t say it was,” said Mom. “Why don’t you put Auggie to bed tonight?” Dad said to Mom, getting up. “I’ve got some work to do anyway. Good night, my son, my son.” That was another part of our Auggie Doggie routine, though I wasn’t in the mood to say Good night, dear ol’ Dad. “I’m so proud of you,” said Dad, and then he got up out of the bed. Mom and Dad had always taken turns putting me to bed. I know it was a little babyish of me to still need them to do that, but that’s just how it was with us. “Will you check in on Via?” Mom said to Dad as she lay down next to me. He stopped by the door and turned around. “What’s wrong with Via?” “Nothing,” said Mom, shrugging, “at least that she would tell me. But … first day of high school and all that.” “Hmm,” said Dad, and then he pointed his finger at me and winked. “It’s always something with you kids, isn’t it?” he said. “Never a dull moment,” said Mom. “Never a dull moment,” Dad repeated. “Good night, guys.” As soon as he closed the door, Mom pulled out the book she’d been reading to me for the last couple of weeks. I was relieved because I really was afraid she’d want to “talk,” and I just didn’t feel like doing that. But Mom didn’t seem to want to talk, either. She just flipped through the pages until she got to where we had left off. We were about halfway through The Hobbit. “ ‘Stop! stop!’ shouted Thorin,” said Mom, reading aloud, “but it was too late, the excited dwarves had wasted their last arrows, and now the bows that Beorn had given them were useless. “They were a gloomy party that night, and the gloom gathered still deeper on them in the following days. They had crossed the enchanted stream; but beyond it the path seemed to straggle on just as before, and in the forest they could see no change.” I’m not sure why, but all of a sudden I started to cry. Mom put the book down and wrapped her arms around me. She didn’t seem surprised that I was crying. “It’s okay,” she whispered in my ear. “It’ll be okay.” “I’m sorry,” I said between sniffles. “Shh,” she said, wiping my tears with the back of her hand. “You have nothing to be sorry about.…” “Why do I have to be so ugly, Mommy?” I whispered. “No, baby, you’re not …” “I know I am.” She kissed me all over my face. She kissed my eyes that came down too far. She kissed my cheeks that looked punched in. She kissed my tortoise mouth. She said soft words that I know were meant to help me, but words can’t change my face. Wake Me Up when September Ends The rest of September was hard. I wasn’t used to getting up so early in the morning. I wasn’t used to this whole notion of homework. And I got my first “quiz” at the end of the month. I never got “quizzes” when Mom homeschooled me. I also didn’t like how I had no free time anymore. Before, I was able to play whenever I wanted to, but now it felt like I always had stuff to do for school. And being at school was awful in the beginning. Every new class I had was like a new chance for kids to “not stare” at me. They would sneak peeks at me from behind their notebooks or when they thought I wasn’t looking. They would take the longest way around me to avoid bumping into me in any way, like I had some germ they could catch, like my face was contagious. In the hallways, which were always crowded, my face would always surprise some unsuspecting kid who maybe hadn’t heard about me. The kid would make the sound you make when you hold your breath before going underwater, a little “uh!” sound. This happened maybe four or five times a day for the first few weeks: on the stairs, in front of the lockers, in the library. Five hundred kids in a school: eventually every one of them was going to see my face at some time. And I knew after the first couple of days that word had gotten around about me, because every once in a while I’d catch a kid elbowing his friend as they passed me, or talking behind their hands as I walked by them. I can only imagine what they were saying about me. Actually, I prefer not to even try to imagine it. I’m not saying they were doing any of these things in a mean way, by the way: not once did any kid laugh or make noises or do anything like that. They were just being normal dumb kids. I know that. I kind of wanted to tell them that. Like, it’s okay, I’m know I’m weird-looking, take a look, I don’t bite. Hey, the truth is, if a Wookiee started going to the school all of a sudden, I’d be curious, I’d probably stare a bit! And if I was walking with Jack or Summer, I’d probably whisper to them: Hey, there’s the Wookiee. And if the Wookiee caught me saying that, he’d know I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was just pointing out the fact that he’s a Wookiee. It took about one week for the kids in my class to get used to my face. These were the kids I’d see every day in all my classes. It took about two weeks for the rest of the kids in my grade to get used to my face. These were the kids I’d see in the cafeteria, yard time, PE, music, library, computer class. It took about a month for the rest of the kids in the entire school to get used to it. These were the kids in all the other grades. They were big kids, some of them. Some of them had crazy haircuts. Some of them had earrings in their noses. Some of them had pimples. None of them looked like me. Jack Will I hung out with Jack in homeroom, English, history, computer, music, and science, which were all the classes we had together. The teachers assigned seats in every class, and I ended up sitting next to Jack in every single class, so I figured either the teachers were told to put me and Jack together, or it was a totally incredible coincidence. I walked to classes with Jack, too. I know he noticed kids staring at me, but he pretended not to notice. One time, though, on our way to history, this huge eighth grader who was zooming down the stairs two steps at a time accidentally bumped into us at the bottom of the stairs and knocked me down. As the guy helped me stand up, he got a look at my face, and without even meaning to, he just said: “Whoa!” Then he patted me on the shoulder, like he was dusting me off, and took off after his friends. For some reason, me and Jack started cracking up. “That guy made the funniest face!” said Jack as we sat down at our desks. “I know, right?” I said. “He was like, whoa!” “I swear, I think he wet his pants!” We were laughing so hard that the teacher, Mr. Roche, had to ask us to settle down. Later, after we finished reading about how ancient Sumerians built sundials, Jack whispered: “Do you ever want to beat those kids up?” I shrugged. “I guess. I don’t know.” “I’d want to. I think you should get a secret squirt gun or something and attach it to your eyes somehow. And every time someone stares at you, you would squirt them in the face.” “With some green slime or something,” I answered. “No, no: with slug juice mixed with dog pee.” “Yeah!” I said, completely agreeing. “Guys,” said Mr. Roche from across the room. “People are still reading.” We nodded and looked down at our books. Then Jack whispered: “Are you always going to look this way, August? I mean, can’t you get plastic surgery or something?” I smiled and pointed to my face. “Hello? This is after plastic surgery!” Jack clapped his hand over his forehead and started laughing hysterically. “Dude, you should sue your doctor!” he answered between giggles. This time the two of us were laughing so much we couldn’t stop, even after Mr. Roche came over and made us both switch chairs with the kids next to us. Mr. Browne’s October Precept Mr. Browne’s precept for October was: YOUR DEEDS ARE YOUR MONUMENTS. He told us that this was written on the tombstone of some Egyptian guy that died thousands of years ago. Since we were just about to start studying ancient Egypt in history, Mr. Browne thought this was a good choice for a precept. Our homework assignment was to write a paragraph about what we thought the precept meant or how we felt about it. This is what I wrote: This precept means that we should be remembered for the things we do. The things we do are the most important things of all. They are more important than what we say or what we look like. The things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor heroes after they’ve died. They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the pharaohs. Only instead of being made out of stone, they’re made out of the memories people have of you. That’s why your deeds are like your monuments. Built with memories instead of with stone. Apples My birthday is October 10. I like my birthday: 10/10. It would’ve been great if I’d been born at exactly 10:10 in the morning or at night, but I wasn’t. I was born just after midnight. But I still think my birthday is cool. I usually have a little party at home, but this year I asked Mom if I could have a big bowling party. Mom was surprised but happy. She asked me who I wanted to ask from my class, and I said everyone in my homeroom plus Summer. “That’s a lot of kids, Auggie,” said Mom. “I have to invite everyone because I don’t want anyone to get their feelings hurt if they find out other people are invited and they aren’t, okay?” “Okay,” Mom agreed. “You even want to invite the ‘what’s the deal’ kid?” “Yeah, you can invite Julian,” I answered. “Geez, Mom, you should forget about that already.” “I know, you’re right.” A couple of weeks later, I asked Mom who was coming to my party, and she said: “Jack Will, Summer. Reid Kingsley. Both Maxes. And a couple of other kids said they were going to try to be there.” “Like who?” “Charlotte’s mom said Charlotte had a dance recital earlier in the day, but she was going to try to come to your party if time allowed. And Tristan’s mom said he might come after his soccer game.” “So that’s it?” I said. “That’s like … five people.” “That’s more than five people, Auggie. I think a lot of people just had plans already,” Mom answered. We were in the kitchen. She was cutting one of the apples we had just gotten at the farmers’ market into teensy-weensy bites so I could eat it. “What kind of plans?” I asked. “I don’t know, Auggie. We sent out the evites kind of late.” “Like what did they tell you, though? What reasons did they give?” “Everyone gave different reasons, Auggie.” She sounded a bit impatient. “Really, sweetie, it shouldn’t matter what their reasons were. People had plans, that’s all.” “What did Julian give as his reason?” I asked. “You know,” said Mom, “his mom was the only person who didn’t RSVP at all.” She looked at me. “I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I laughed because I thought she was making a joke, but then I realized she wasn’t. “What does that mean?” I asked. “Never mind. Now go wash your hands so you can eat.” My birthday party turned out to be much smaller than I thought it would be, but it was still great. Jack, Summer, Reid, Tristan, and both Maxes came from school, and Christopher came, too—all the way from Bridgeport with his parents. And Uncle Ben came. And Aunt Kate and Uncle Po drove in from Boston, though Tata and Poppa were in Florida for the winter. It was fun because all the grown-ups ended up bowling in the lane next to ours, so it really felt like there were a lot of people there to celebrate my birthday. Halloween At lunch the next day, Summer asked me what I was going to be for Halloween. Of course, I’d been thinking about it since last Halloween, so I knew right away. “Boba Fett.” “You know you can wear a costume to school on Halloween, right?” “No way, really?” “So long as it’s politically correct.” “What, like no guns and stuff?” “Exactly.” “What about blasters?” “I think a blaster’s like a gun, Auggie.” “Oh man …,” I said, shaking my head. Boba Fett has a blaster. “At least, we don’t have to come like a character in a book anymore. In the lower school that’s what you had to do. Last year I was the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.” “But that’s a movie, not a book.” “Hello?” Summer answered. “It was a book first! One of my favorite books in the world, actually. My dad used to read it to me every night in the first grade.” When Summer talks, especially when she’s excited about something, her eyes squint like she’s looking right at the sun. I hardly ever see Summer during the day, since the only class we have together is English. But ever since that first lunch at school, we’ve sat at the summer table together every day, just the two of us. “So, what are you going to be?” I asked her. “I don’t know yet. I know what I’d really want to go as, but I think it might be too dorky. You know, Savanna’s group isn’t even wearing costumes this year. They think we’re too old for Halloween.” “What? That’s just dumb.” “I know, right?” “I thought you didn’t care what those girls think.” She shrugged and took a long drink of her milk. “So, what dorky thing do you want to dress up as?” I asked her, smiling. “Promise not to laugh?” She raised her eyebrows and her shoulders, embarrassed. “A unicorn.” I smiled and looked down at my sandwich. “Hey, you promised not to laugh!” she laughed. “Okay, okay,” I said. “But you’re right: that is too dorky.” “I know!” she said. “But I have it all planned out: I’d make the head out of papier-mâché, and paint the horn gold and make the mane gold, too.… It would be so awesome.” “Okay.” I shrugged. “Then you should do it. Who cares what other people think, right?” “Maybe what I’ll do is just wear it for the Halloween Parade,” she said, snapping her fingers. “And I’ll just be, like, a Goth girl for school. Yeah, that’s it, that’s what I’ll do.” “Sounds like a plan.” I nodded. “Thanks, Auggie,” she giggled. “You know, that’s what I like best about you. I feel like I can tell you anything.” “Yeah?” I answered, nodding. I gave her a thumbs-up sign. “Cool beans.” School Pictures I don’t think anyone will be shocked to learn I don’t want to have my school picture taken on October 22. No way. No thank you. I stopped letting anyone take pictures of me a while ago. I guess you could call it a phobia. No, actually, it’s not a phobia. It’s an “aversion,” which is a word I just learned in Mr. Browne’s class. I have an aversion to having my picture taken. There, I used it in a sentence. I thought Mom would try to get me to drop my aversion to having my picture taken for school, but she didn’t. Unfortunately, while I managed to avoid having the portrait taken, I couldn’t get out of being part of the class picture. Ugh. The photographer looked like he’d just sucked on a lemon when he saw me. I’m sure he thought I ruined the picture. I was one of the ones in the front, sitting down. I didn’t smile, not that anyone could tell if I had. The Cheese Touch I noticed not too long ago that even though people were getting used to me, no one would actually touch me. I didn’t realize this at first because it’s not like kids go around touching each other that much in middle school anyway. But last Thursday in dance class, which is, like, my least favorite class, Mrs. Atanabi, the teacher, tried to make Ximena Chin be my dance partner. Now, I’ve never actually seen someone have a “panic attack” before, but I have heard about it, and I’m pretty sure Ximena had a panic attack at that second. She got really nervous and turned pale and literally broke into a sweat within a minute, and then she came up with some lame excuse about really having to go to the bathroom. Anyway, Mrs. Atanabi let her off the hook, because she ended up not making anyone dance together. Then yesterday in my science elective, we were doing this cool mystery-powder investigation where we had to classify a substance as an acid or a base. Everyone had to heat their mystery powders on a heating plate and make observations, so we were all huddled around the powders with our notebooks. Now, there are eight kids in the elective, and seven of them were squished together on one side of the plate while one of them—me—had loads of room on the other side. So of course I noticed this, but I was hoping Ms. Rubin wouldn’t notice this, because I didn’t want her to say something. But of course she did notice this, and of course she said something. “Guys, there’s plenty of room on that side. Tristan, Nino, go over there,” she said, so Tristan and Nino scooted over to my side. Tristan and Nino have always been okay-nice to me. I want to go on record as saying that. Not super-nice, like they go out of their way to hang out with me, but okay-nice, like they say hello to me and talk to me like normal. And they didn’t even make a face when Ms. Rubin told them to come on my side, which a lot of kids do when they think I’m not looking. Anyway, everything was going fine until Tristan’s mystery powder started melting. He moved his foil off the plate just as my powder began to melt, too, which is why I went to move mine off the plate, and then my hand accidentally bumped his hand for a fraction of a second. Tristan jerked his hand away so fast he dropped his foil on the floor while also knocking everyone else’s foil off the heating plate. “Tristan!” yelled Ms. Rubin, but Tristan didn’t even care about the spilled powder on the floor or that he ruined the experiment. What he was most concerned about was getting to the lab sink to wash his hands as fast as possible. That’s when I knew for sure that there was this thing about touching me at Beecher Prep. I think it’s like the Cheese Touch in Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The kids in that story were afraid they’d catch the cooties if they touched the old moldy cheese on the basketball court. At Beecher Prep, I’m the old moldy cheese. Costumes For me, Halloween is the best holiday in the world. It even beats Christmas. I get to dress up in a costume. I get to wear a mask. I get to go around like every other kid with a mask and nobody thinks I look weird. Nobody takes a second look. Nobody notices me. Nobody knows me. I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks. When I was little, I used to wear an astronaut helmet everywhere I went. To the playground. To the supermarket. To pick Via up from school. Even in the middle of summer, though it was so hot my face would sweat. I think I wore it for a couple of years, but I had to stop wearing it when I had my eye surgery. I was about seven, I think. And then we couldn’t find the helmet after that. Mom looked everywhere for it. She figured that it had probably ended up in Grans’s attic, and she kept meaning to look for it, but by then I had gotten used to not wearing it. I have pictures of me in all my Halloween costumes. My first Halloween I was a pumpkin. My second I was Tigger. My third I was Peter Pan (my dad dressed up as Captain Hook). My fourth I was Captain Hook (my dad dressed up as Peter Pan). My fifth I was an astronaut. My sixth I was Obi-Wan Kenobi. My seventh I was a clone trooper. My eighth I was Darth Vader. My ninth I was the Bleeding Scream, the one that has fake blood oozing out over the skull mask. This year I’m going to be Boba Fett: not Boba Fett the kid in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, but Boba Fett the man from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Mom searched everywhere for the costume but couldn’t find one in my size, so she bought me a Jango Fett costume—since Jango was Boba’s dad and wore the same armor—and then painted the armor green. She did some other stuff to it to make it look worn, too. Anyway, it looks totally real. Mom’s good at costumes. In homeroom we all talked about what we were going to be for Halloween. Charlotte was going as Hermione from Harry Potter. Jack was going as a wolfman. I heard that Julian was going as Jango Fett, which was a weird coincidence. I don’t think he liked hearing that I was going as Boba Fett. On the morning of Halloween, Via had this big crying meltdown about something. Via’s always been so calm and cool, but this year she’s had a couple of these kinds of fits. Dad was late for work and was like, “Via, let’s go! Let’s go!” Usually Dad is super patient about things, but not when it comes to his being late for work, and his yelling just stressed out Via even more, and she started crying louder, so Mom told Dad to take me to school and that she’d deal with Via. Then Mom kissed me goodbye quickly, before I even put on my costume, and disappeared into Via’s room. “Auggie, let’s go now!” said Dad. “I have a meeting I can’t be late for!” “I haven’t put my costume on yet!” “So put it on, already. Five minutes. I’ll meet you outside.” I rushed to my room and started to put on the Boba Fett costume, but all of a sudden I didn’t feel like wearing it. I’m not sure why—maybe because it had all these belts that needed to be tightened and I needed someone’s help to put it on. Or maybe it was because it still smelled a little like paint. All I knew was that it was a lot of work to put the costume on, and Dad was waiting and would get super impatient if I made him late. So, at the last minute, I threw on the Bleeding Scream costume from last year. It was such an easy costume: just a long black robe and a big white mask. I yelled goodbye from the door on my way out, but Mom didn’t even hear me. “I thought you were going as Jango Fett,” said Dad when I got outside. “Boba Fett!” “Whatever,” said Dad. “This is a better